IAM Guest Post…You’re Never Too Old

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Our featured author today is Clinton Harding, a regular visitor to the blog since we ran our first Indie Author Month in 2012. We recently hosted a week-long tour feature for Clinton celebrating the release of Book 2 in the Bad Monsters series. If you missed that, or any of his previous features and guest posts, you can check them out here

Back to today – Clinton’s shared a great post on the young adult fiction genre and why you’re never too old to enjoy great books…

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YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD…

 When you walk into a brick and mortar bookstore (the few left anyway) or browse Amazon’s list of new book releases and see books under the category “young adult” what do you expect to see? Most people will say the Twilight series of books, maybe The Hunger Games trilogy, or any other single or set of books with young adults or children as protagonists dealing with common growing pains on their way to adulthood. Now, name the target audience for these books. This is an easy one. People will roll their eyes and probably say, “duh! What section of the store are you in? Young adult.” I can hear the forehead slapping right now.

 I’m not sure the definition and categorization is correct here.  For one, I don’t believe young adult fiction is written specifically for one audience, let along one that is a less mature age group. Publishers Weekly reported in late2012 that 55% of people buying and reading these types of books are 18 years or older. I’ll buy that. A lot of my friends read young adult fiction, a couple prefer the stories to some of the “adult fiction available. Most of them were reading Harry Potter (not an “adult” fictional series) in high school when the books were just coming out and bursting into a cultural phenomenon, book that are targeted at children and not high school students or anyone older.

The young adult and children’s fiction genres have good quality reading options for readers of all ages. The writing style is generally simple, sure. Description of the setting, characters, the over physical sights in the novels are not verbose. Vocabulary is simplified. However, some of deepest world building can occur in these adolescent novels.  The narrative is rich. The characters are vibrant, individualized, fully formed.  Even without paragraph-length descriptions, novels like those in the Harry Potter series have wonderful , colorful characters that people fall in love with and the worlds they inhabitant are no less realized. These novels can tackle adult issues, sociological and political and relationships.

Going back to my original question… what aspects of the novel makes it young adult? Again, generally the age of the protagonists makes the difference. Teen protagonist saving the world, dealing with homework, bullies, dating, family issues… yup, that’s a young adult novel typically. If you’re an older reader, immersing yourself in those types of stories is childish by the standards of other people.  Same as wearing capes and tights is stupid and kid-stuff.Except for a few cases, of course.That’s the stigma that separates the genre and leads to hesitation in readers of a more mature age. Is the young adult genre childish, though? I don’t think so.

Orson Scott Card wrote in the eighties “Ender’s Game”. Originally considered an adult novel (first a short story published through the magazine “Analog”). It’s about an eight or ten year old boy named Ender Wiggin who is by all accounts a genius. Ender is sent to a military academy in space so he can learn the art of war and so later he and the other cadets can lead the fight against an alien race of insects that humanity is at war with.  The novel contrasts the lives of children and adults, how the adults treat children, how the thoughts and ideas of children are no less real than an adult’s own because a child can manipulate and destroy as easily as an adult but he or she is also capable more so of creating and helping. Overall, the novel explores compassion and cruelty and how the concepts relate to humanity and humanity’s treatment of each other and another species.

Deep stuff, right?And there is a lot more themes woven into the novel, I touched on only a few Card explored. Remember, though, “Ender’s Game” is about a boy who is about eight or ten years old. Originally “Ender’s Game” was marketed as adult science fiction. Later editions of the novel place it in the young adult category because of the protagonist’s age and that at its core the novel is a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story about a boys’ moral and emotional growth. Can adults enjoy the story? Of course. Can adults learning something from the story? Damn straight! “Ender’s Game” is sometimes suggested reading at military organizations, the United States Marine Corps is one such group. “Ender’s Game” is today enjoyed by adults and younger readers a like without discrimination and despite its categorical labeling.

Another example of young adult fiction with adult themes is the His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. A number of years ago the first book in the trilogy, “The Golden Compass”, was adapted to film and starred Nichole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Box office results did not garner the property a sequel. Too bad since the material asks questions about religion, free will and the right to knowledge and how that plays into freedom and a person’s maturity. Again, main protagonist Lyria is a maturing little girl and developing into womanhood so the series is considered young adult. Its themes, however, contradict the silliness and juvenile perceptions of what most people view as an adolescent novel. If the film had done better, His Dark Materials may have found a wider popularity and acceptance like Potter or Twilight.

Should adults limit their to-read selections to what the publishing industry and general public considers adult? After all, many adolescent readers do not stick to roaming the young adult fiction shelves. They branch out. Those who like horror will find their way to Lovecraft and King and McCammon and Matheson. Fantasy lovers will read Lord of the Rings, they’ll crack open Brooks, Jordan, Erikson, or Martin. When I was in junior high and high school I was reading adult fiction. Reading young adult never crossed my mind.  What’s more is that some of the great portrayals of child heroes/protagonists are in adult novels, stories that spin a tale of how the child establishes his or her moral footing and uses those convictions to face adult challenges.

Why are adolescents allowed to read adult-marketed fiction but adults cannot venture to read young adult? Probably because someone younger reading A Song of Ice and Fire or Tales of Malazan or “The Shining” is considered mature while an adult reading Potter or some other younger title is juvenile.

Labels are the problem. Humans love to label and put things into boxes so we know what to avoid and what is acceptable. We do it to each other, to our neighbors. Genres in fiction are labels.

I always encourage people to read or watch entertainment based on their enjoyment and not popular perception. Fads fade in this fast-paced, internet, information at your fingertips world. Good novels—regardless of being adult themed or young adult themed—don’t transform into bad fiction when the census decides it’s ready to move on to the new/next shiny, noisy attention grabber.  Harry Potter—in my humble opinion—will remain a favorite of so many people because of its readership’s genuine love for the material, because the stories are good, because Rowling wrote something special. That young wizard turned on a generation to reading. Roald Dohl wrote memorable fiction that stand the test of time, regardless of the generation.  Multiple generations know about and enjoy “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The BFG”, and “Matilda”. Lord of the Rings is another example where generations later people still love the books long after the author has passed and the first generation with him, it is the introduction of many to fantasy novels.

Good fiction is a category of its own, the only category that matters.

 

‘Bad Monsters’ Blog Tour – Excerpt

Bad Monsters -- Blog Tour Banner

We hope you’ve enjoyed our week of features with author Clinton Harding and learning more about Bad Monsters and the Our Monsters Chronicles. For us, it’s always a pleasure to host Clinton on the blog, he’s shared some fantastic guest posts with us over the past couple of years (read them here) and we look forward to hearing more from him in the future 🙂 For our last feature of the week, we are excited to share with you an excerpt from the opening of Bad Monsters and we’re offering one reader a copy of the book in our giveaway today – just pop a comment in the post to be entered!

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BAD MONSTERS

The Our Monsters Chronicles Book Two

By

Clinton D. Harding

CHAPTER ONE

Glass crunched underneath the soles of General Mauser’s high-polished boots. The sound gave him pause and he fought the urge to grind his teeth with each additional step.

Four teenagers… four children managed to move through a heavily fortified military base with so much ease?!

Shards of glass lay scattered about the circular room. Above him, a breach the size of a small adult human punctuated the steel framing of the domed ceiling, the metal bent inward, the glass panes gone. The sound of groaning metal and breaking glass tore at the general’s mind, a dull razor against paper.

How many internal hybrid attacks had Carpenter endured in the last few years? Uncountable. That is the hazard of working with beasts, with monsters. You don’t walk into a minefield and expect not to step on at least one land mine. In the past each monster incident had ended with the escaped hybrids sedated, the threat neutralized and contained. Minimal paperwork required. This time… a handful of soldiers lay in the infirmary and security found three high-ranking officers handcuffed to a pipe underneath a sink.

Embarrassing.

Children had fought and subdued Mauser’s soldiers, had handcuffed his lead scientist, his head of security, and a captain. Not hybrids but children. There would be a hand-cramping amount of paperwork to fill out in order to explain this mess… Mauser would not subject his hands to that ache, his incompetent subordinates would.

Embarrassing.

At least no other hybrid managed to escape its bonds, except the four.

Mauser forced himself to stop grinding his teeth. He took in a deep breath and held it for the space of half a minute before exhaling.

None of this was supposed to happen. The hybrids were to be taken from the children, brought back to the base, examined, and contained once more. If it were not for his own son’s blubbering tears and his wife’s insistence that he and the boy have a “man-to-man” conversation, the General would have been at the base last night.

Now the newest, youngest batch of Carpenter hybrids was gone… again. This was not part of the original plan.

“We adapt or die,” the General muttered under his breath. He had spoken these words to himself once before. It had been two weeks after the fallout in New Mexico, after the monsters ripped their way through to his world, his country, and proceeded to tear apart rightful citizens of these United States. He picked up the pieces of tragedy those many years ago and refocused disaster into opportunity.

Glass crunched and scraped as Mauser turned on his heel.

Professor Martin Graves stood in front of a stainless steel worktable polishing a set of surgical instruments, likely to keep his hands busy. He had changed out of his surgical scrubs and into a pair of rumpled suit slacks and a white un-ironed shirt with the sleeves cuffed up past the elbows. Tired and miserable, Graves kept his back to Mauser. That spoke more than words.

Can I trust him? Mauser believed it possible that Graves had helped his son and his son’s monster escape Carpenter. How else could the boy, his friends, and the beasts have ghosted past security? They had certainly made an entrance. From what Mauser understood, it was his lead scientist’s badge after all that allowed the group of teens access to the underground facility.

Then there was First Lieutenant Greg Marshall, leaning against the doorway, rubbing his wrist absently. Another family man, one more devoted than the absent Graves, for sure. The reason why Mauser brought Marshall to Carpenter was the soldier’s values. His commitment to his family. That loyalty made a man strong, made him willing to die for his beliefs and loves. Yet a family man’s priorities centered on his family, sacrifices were not easily made outside that inner circle.

Neither man dared to face Mauser’s disapproving gaze, Graves and Marshall wanting to avoid admonishment for the blundering display of idiocy the previous evening.

Mauser glanced at his wristwatch. Morning. The night had slipped by as quickly as the children and the beasts.

She should be here soon.

As he lowered his arm, Mauser caught the sight of the exam room table. Strange to see the restraints not snapped with great strength or cut by a knife. The undone brass buckle of the two-hand-span wide belly restraint swayed, nearly brushing the ground. Its casual ease taunted Mauser. Yes, it had been that easy. No extraordinary powers needed.

Both subordinate officers had offered their stories to Mauser. Neither had known their sons would break into the mountain base. Nor did they understand how Grave’s son had burst through the domed ceiling like a superhero and walked away without a broken bone. Stern lectures and a month without television or video games would not be enough to produce hangdog teenage faces and second thoughts. Graves and Marshall would write reports later and their hands would indeed cramp. If nothing, Carpenter was a government, a bureaucracy, right down to the last scrap of paper and drop of ink.

I should have fought harder to keep the families away from these projects. Mauser chided himself for that moment of weakness when all this started.

Mauser believed his men needed their families close. He also wanted to keep the soldiers from rotating to new posts, to protect the integrity of the confidential operation and to hide the project in plain sight. For those reasons he allowed Carpenter to grow around a town, for the civilians and military to merge into a cohesive unit. Mistake number one.

A recent mistake was letting Sergeant Major Scott leave the room. Scott headed the Lightning Squad. With tanks strapped to their backs, each filled with a nerve-twitching amount of hydro-electricity, the team was effective in controlling a hybrid. Scott also had a reputation for getting things done, costs be damned if he preserved a greater number of lives. Mauser’s kind of soldier.

For what Mauser needed next, Scott was the preferred soldier.

“I’m sending out a team to recapture the escaped monsters,” Mauser said to neither man in particular. Striding to the door, to where Marshall stood, he made to leave.

The air stirred as the other men surfaced from their downcast reverie.

Another thought occurred to the General. “Capture the monsters and bring in the children.”

A pause.

Glass crunched. How many of the panes did the Graves boy bring down?

Magnificent potential.

“I’ll establish my team immediate—” Marshall started to say before his commanding officer cut him off.

“No,” Mauser said flatly, simply, and louder than necessary. He intended for his voice to roar like thunder, to straighten backs. The General commanded authority and he would have obedience.

Letting the singular word resonate and dig, Mauser continued more quietly. “First Lieutenant, you are needed here in Carpenter. You must maintain order at our facility. Plus, your boy is out there and your judgment will be clouded if you lead.”

That is how you ground someone, Mauser acknowledged proudly.

“But this is… you… ” Marshall started to speak out of turn, to question his superior officer’s, his commander’s orders. Then he remembered himself. With little emotion, Marshall corrected his delivery. “Sir, if not myself then who will be set as squad leader?”

“Scott.”

“Sir, if you don’t mind me saying,” Marshall began slowly, choosing his words carefully, not wanting to again question orders or speak ill of an enlisted man so near his own rank.

“I do mind, First Lieutenant,” Mauser said, reaching for the doorknob. “Scott is more qualified for this mission than yourself. End of discussion.”

Mauser cut off the man with a simple gesture. This young military officer was not thinking straight, he’d shortly before seen his son walk out of his life, disobeying parental orders to extricate himself from the military’s affairs. In the wild, if a cub questioned the lion, the lion would eat the impudent pretender. Plus, Mauser was unsure he could trust the father of one of the teens who’d stolen the hybrids. Not at this moment anyway.

Until now, Graves had chosen to continue sanitizing and polishing his surgical tools. Smarter man than Marshall. Maybe Mauser could…

Graves dropped a gleaming scalpel, or perhaps the professor lightly tossed it down. The tool hit with metallic clatter.

“You mean Scott has more experience with hybrids,” Graves said, not turning his gaze to meet Mauser’s own.

Mauser arched a bushy eyebrow, raising it over the rim of his spectacles.

Marshall looked between the military man and the scientist, not understanding, still rubbing his wrist. “Professor Graves, what do you—”

“He’s sending Scott’s team and a team of hybrids to take down the escaped ones.”

Mauser did not flinch or acknowledge this information as factual. Silence was sometimes more powerful than words. Silence could unravel a man’s composure more than a passionate shout. Marshall was a family man. He cared for his son no matter the boy’s transgressions. He was also ten years younger than Graves and that gap was more apparent the closer you stepped to the edge for the man’s love for his child.

Turning the knob, the lock disengaged with an audible click. Pushing the door open, Mauser walked out. He paused when his First Lieutenant spoke out unchecked.

“Our fully grown hybrids are not field tested,” the soldier said, stepping into the threshold of the lab door, “there’s a chance they might rip the escaped subjects apart… and the kids too!”

Mauser chose to ignore the reckless passion in the soldier’s voice, to turn the cheek at the slap. Only now had Marshall validated the General’s decision to involve Scott.

“They will be once this is over,” Mauser said. “If the children are smart, they will turn themselves over to Scott and his team. Besides, from what you both told me, it sounds like the children are more than capable of handling themselves. Let us observe how this plays out… shall we.”

Not a recommendation… an order.

“Let it go, Greg,” Graves interjected softly.

“You’re going along with this, Martin. I know you’re a man of science but… god man, Jon is your boy.”

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity since Generation One, First Lieutenant,” Mauser said to Marshall when the professor did not answer immediately. “Who knew we’d be so fortunate. Believe me when I say… we want the children back more than their freakish pets.”

Getting Russell a viper would have been safer than one of the monsters, Mauser mused with wry humor.

Clipped to his belt, a handheld radio crackled and a voice called out to Mauser. Mauser answered that he was listening and then waited.

“Sir, we’re escorting the girl inside the facility now. We’ll put her in a holding room until you’re ready to speak with her. Over”

More white noise crackled. Mauser answered with an affirmative and placed the radio back on his belt, the opposite side from his firearm. He did not excuse himself.

CHAPTER TWO

Hood over her head, all was dark and muffled. An expansive sea of despair and mysterious finality stretched out before her. Mikaila could hear her panicked breathing even more acutely in this hooded-world. She was more aware of her heaving chest as it labored out shallow breaths. Her ears pounded with the rushing of blood to her head. Back rigid, shoulders hunched and cramping, she nonetheless decide to prepare for… well… anything. A firing squad, maybe? Did the military execute traitors with firing squads these days?

Regardless of her possible execution for treasonous acts against the United States, Mikaila found she was not worried about herself.

I hope Isis is alright, she kept thinking, steeling her resolve and wrapping that armor around her. She’s with Jon. She’ll be fine with Jon and Bo to take care of her.

Thinking about Isis only forced silent tears from Mikaila’s already damp eyes. Underneath the hood, the moisture made the hood-world experience even more humid and uncomfortable, hard to breath.

Jon was her second concern. Not for his safety. He was smart and thought fast on his feet, though his mouth ran faster. Mikaila laughed at this thought and nearly sobbed perceptibly that time.

Someone, a voice far away, told her to be quiet and settle down. The voice was from one of the soldiers who had picked her up at the bus station in Carpenter. The soldiers had come upon her not even two seconds after she stepped off the bus and onto the platform. She did not hate the three men and one woman as they were following orders. Their postures and gentle—yet detached—treatment of her spoke volumes.

Her thoughts returned to Jon. His words to her in those short moments when they split paths were as clear as the sounds from the world beyond the hood. Jon’s look, the fiery blaze of betrayal in his eyes when she told him she could not come along with the group, broke her heart. He would never forgive her. However, Mikaila could not betray her parents and leave them alone in Carpenter with no idea where their only daughter had run off. Their possible pain was greater than her own discomfort was when standing in front of Jon and her apprehension at this very moment.

Then there was Isis. Poor, sweet Isis. What would she think when she woke from her drug-induced slumber? The hybrid would wail, scratch and try to take flight in order to search for her human companion. Mikaila knew this as true.

The hood pulled away. Her curly brown locks tumbled in front of her face, which she scrunched up. Sterile light flooded the cheerleader’s vision and blinded her, pain squeezing her temples and forcing her eyes shut. Fresh air caressed her face, refreshing and full of life compared with the stink of the confining hood.

Bursts of black spots appeared in front of Mikaila’s gaze as she tried to open her eyes again. For a brief second of delusion, one of those dots stretched and morphed into the silhouette of an avian hybrid. Then the black shape rose into a blazing sun and vanished.

Please, Jon, keep her safe. Keep Isis from flying to me and to this hellish place.

Mikaila blinked. She squinted one eye, closed it, opened the other eye ever so slightly, and then closed both.

As her vision cleared, she slowly allowed her eyes to open and reveal her surroundings.

Standing before her, a black human blob of a shape came into focus and took the shape of General Mauser. Bunched up in his hand was the dark hood that had blinded Mikaila. The General tossed it on the table between him and her.

“Good morning, young lady,” Mauser said. “I trust you are comfortable…”

Mikaila attempted to lift her arms. The handcuffs binding her hands, attached to a longer chain affixed to a u-shaped bolt in the floor underneath the table, kept her from raising her arms higher than her chest.

She tilted her head while holding out her hands in placidity, the chain jangling.

“As comfortable as I can be, sir,” she answered, trying to channel as much of Alice’s blind bravado as she could. This man before her, who wanted Isis and the other hybrids as lab rats, would not get satisfaction from her pain or discomfort.

A moment passed in which she thought the General might smack her. She prepared herself.

Instead, Mauser chuckled and shook a thick, stubby finger at her. His smile only touched his lips. “Good for you, young lady. You have moxie in the face of authority and an adult. I’ll let it pass… for now.”

Suppressing a shudder, Mikaila bowed her head and brushed her hair back from her face and behind her ears. Her bound hands made his difficult but she managed, she needed to take her mind away from this military giant. From what Russell said about his father, the General was more than a little narcissistic and more than a little mean. She agreed.

“If you’re going to ask me where my friends are going, don’t waste your time,” Mikaila said. Her words came out more squeaky than confident, making her sound more like the mouse caught between the lion’s claws. This made her shrink in her chair a little.

“Why would I ask such a question, hmm?”

Was this a trick? “The military, you, want the hybrids back here in Carpenter. You believe them your property and because of that you—”

Mauser broke in, raising a hand for her stop. “Correction. Not my property. Property of the United States Army Corps.  I am only a caretaker.”

Snorting, Mikaila said, “Some caretaker. You’re evil. You don’t care about the hybrids or what happens to them. To me, you lack the care in that title… take is what you concern yourself with.”

“These are not fluffy bunnies or unicorns, young lady,” Mauser said, keeping his tone neutral. He cared no more for the cheerleader’s opinion than he did about the treatment of the hybrids. In his mind, she was a stupid little girl playing in a fantasy world. “If you look them in the eye, challenge them, they just might take a swipe at you, scratch up that pretty face of yours. That would be a shame and is something I want to prevent. Ms. Taggart, this is not a zoo. This is the wild world under the protection of the US Military.”

Across the table, Mauser leaned in close and locked eyes with Mikaila, a predator assessing his prey’s weaknesses. Almost immediately, she shifted in her seat. Shortly after, her head turned to the side to escape. She would have hugged herself, to rub away the chill coursing through her body, but the handcuffs…

The table creaked as Mauser straightened and took his weight off the table. Not a fat man, he certainly didn’t have the whipcord thin and sinewy build of a soldier in regular combat. Soft around the middle, he still had some strength in his chest and shoulders. Stress had etched the wrinkles across his forehead and around his eyes, not smiles. His slicked back, peppered hair was thinning, yet he retained the sharp, severe widow’s peak that seemed to touch the space between his eyes.

After a while, when she was unsure if he wanted her to speak, Mikaila took a chance. She would tell the truth, a lie felt too dirty and she was already too exposed. “I can’t tell you where my friends took the hybrids. They didn’t tell me.”

That felt good. A wave of release left the cheerleader in a rush of air.

“I didn’t make myself clear… I don’t need you to tell me, young lady,” Mauser retorted flatly.

Mikaila snapped her head front and center, focusing her attention. Mauser’s face betrayed nothing. His expression was not smug or remote; when he did elaborate, it was matter-of-factly and seriously.

“You don’t think I can’t track the hybrids? That I don’t know where your friends are right now? I’ll tell you something, I have a team ready to go out this minute. On my way to see you, I commissioned an officer and a… let’s say a special team… to retrieve the hybrids.”

A frightening realization came into focus. Something that Russell, the General’s son, had been worried about and everyone shrugged off. For a while, their little group, their developing family, felt safe and comfortable. No one from Carpenter had come after them. Jon said he saw no surveillance cameras watching him when he found the hybrids the day of the fieldtrip. Yet, when they all broke in to the underground base, soldiers were on the four teens almost immediately upon identifying the threat.

Mikaila whispered, her voice shaking. “You knew all along we had the hybrids, didn’t you? You let us have them?”

Mauser nodded.

“But… but why? Why would you let five hybrids out of the facility?”

“Our reasons are our own. Project Evo is classified, meaning you are not authorized to have that information. However, let me give you this, young lady. I took a great chance in listening to your friend’s father when he suggested this field test. He seemed to think the monsters wouldn’t rip you five to shreds. Professor Graves has immense faith in the beasts he created; he’s wrapped up too much of his heart in them, he believes nurture wins out over nature. I had my doubts, especially with my witless son involved. Don’t mistake me, I love the boy, but sometimes his head is not fixed in the correct direction.

“Suffice it to say, when the hybrids attacked my soldiers the day you all came to my house looking for Russell, my suspicions were confirmed. They are dangerous. Unchecked, they are weapons without a guidance system.”

“They were trying to protect us! Protect Trick!” Mikaila nearly leapt from her seat, the chain attached to the table preventing her from getting far.

Mauser stood still. Unflinching. No wonder Russell was so scared of his father. The man was an uncompromising brick wall. Run headlong into a wall and it might break bones. Would you expect an apology from the wall? You cannot reason with a brick wall. You can only avoid the headlong collision.

Mikaila sat down hard, concentrating on slowing her pulsing heart.

Able to breathe and speak without her words tumbling out, Mikaila asked the question that been nagging at her since the soldiers picked her.

“Now what are you going to do?”

A wide smile stretched across the General’s lips. For some reason, the delight in his expression was more menacing than his cold authority.

“Why, I want to ask you the question I came to ask.”

Mikaila waited, saying nothing, brushing her hair back out of her face again—she wished for a hair tie or even a rubber band right now, her curls always got in the way. She watched Mauser, trying to exude sheepish innocence.

“Tell me, young lady, how is it that you came by the ability to fly like your hybrid friend?”

CHAPTER THREE

Hateful words flew from his lips. Each was a blade meant to slice, rip, and cut deep to the bone. He wanted Mikaila to feel what he felt in this moment.

“Go then.” Jon snarled. “Leave!”

Immediately he regretted throwing those daggers.

Mikaila showed him her back and dipped to grab up her bags.

As her fingers curled around the plastic handles, Jon reached out with one hand and took hold of his best friend’s wrist. He thought better of the amount of pressure he used. Instead, he loosened his grip and placed his other hand on her hip, motioning for her to stand. This was the first time Jon was aware of his best friend’s curves. Soft. Feminine. Jon wanted his hands to explore Mikaila’s curves; her hips, her waist, her collarbone, her neck, and every other mysterious bend. A tingle surged from the tips of his fingers to his wrist. His hand nearly jerked away, but it stayed, not wanting to let go of that hip.

Sobs. The word daggers had cut her.

“I… I’m… I’m sorry, Mick!” He blurted the words out, an actor on stage attempting to grab hold of his audience and direct their emotions to a place of his choosing. “For weeks, I’ve been an idiot. No! That’s not right… I’ve been a King Kong sized moron stomping on your heart like it were Tokyo. The worst friend anyone could be, unfair to the person who means the most to me.”

Mikaila slowly rotated around on her heel to face him. Tears flooded her big brown eyes. Normally so much light shone from her eyes, now, her eyes overflowed with weeks of hurt and pain. Jon quickly lowered his own eyes and focused them on his hands in hers. Was every part of her so soft? Part of Jon wanted to discover the answer. This frightened him and yet it was a good fright.

“Not weeks,” she managed to say between sniffles of tears, “I would say a couple of days.”

Shaking his head, Jon decided to tell her the whole truth. “No. I should have spoken sooner. Zach had me in a janitor’s closet on the fieldtrip.”

She snorted. The abrupt sound drew Jon’s gaze up to Mikaila’s face. She wore little makeup, if any. Her eyes were watery, red with the beginnings of puffiness, but there were no mascara streaks. There was no anger there, as Jon expected, only a playful impishness.

“In the janitor’s closet, huh?” She raised an eyebrow. “Did something happen between you and Zack that you never told the rest of us? A little…”

“Oh yeah, we had a special moment. All the conflict and meanness was just pent up affection we manly guys knew not how to express to each other. Instead, we acted like cavemen with clubs, beating each other over the head ’til someone relented to come back to the other’s cave.”

“Never knew you had a thing for Zack, Jon.”

“Imagine my surprise, Mick!”

They both gazed seriously into each other’s eyes and a heartbeat later broke into a fit of giggles. The laughter was as loud as cracking ice.

When they both wrestled back control, Jon let go of his best friend’s hand and let her wipe away her tears.

“Are you ever serious?” she asked with an exasperated sigh, there was a hint of annoyance there.

“Rarely.” Jon’s smile vanished, knowing that this moment was the time to be serious.

“I want to be serious now, Mikaila.”

She cocked her head to one side listening. A brown curl came loose from behind her ear. She made to pull it back. Jon beat Mikaila to it and she blushed girlishly.

“Zack pulled me into the janitor’s closet to ask me to help him…” Jon trailed off, thinking of the appropriate word to describe Zack Wedge’s intentions, which were less than honorable. “Well, he wanted me to help him get on your good side, to get you to date him for the purpose of… you know.”

Silence.

A bus pulled in the station, the breaks squealing with effort.

“He wanted to add you to his trophy collection,” Jon finally managed to say, not very straight forward but the analogy would do where the exact words would have been too R-rated. He wanted this situation to remain PG-13. He explained to her about his and Zack’s fight behind the bleachers the night George had first tapped the power in Trick’s sun stone. How he’d heard what the stupid jock wanted out of his relationship with Mikaila and how he was ready to beat Jon bloody to stop any interference. “Don’t be mad at me for not being honest, I just didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“You should have just told me the truth, what you thought, I would have listened, Jon.”

“I was angry you said yes to the date.”

“Because…” Mikaila was reaching to pull the truth from him, she wanted it, her eyes were hungry and trying to eat Jon’s soul whole.

This is the moment I should have had with her… I should have said this before and not been a complete spaz!

“Because Zack is not good for you, Mick, and…” Jon sighed, using the space of a breath to collect his courage. “… I couldn’t bear to see you with him and not me.”

Mikaila’s eyes lit up brightly, as they always did when she saw him or when she looked at the world and simply saw bunnies bounding and rainbows arching. Jon felt special in that moment, chasing bunnies underneath the rainbows. A fluttering of wings beat inside his chest, urging him to press himself against Mikaila and fly them away.

“I’ve been waiting for you to tell me something like that for years, Jon. All your talk of Alice, your wanting her, it hurt—”

“Sorry, I was an idiot. You were standing right in front of me and I didn’t… I didn’t see you.”

“Can you see me now?”

“I see you now,” he told her, “Come with us, please…”
At his feet, Jon’s backpack rustled and nudged his leg. Bo probably wanted to throw up, listening to Jon and Mikaila act out a scene from some cheesy young adult novel with vampires or some such stupid stuff. Jon ignored his hybrid friend and instead rose up on his tiptoes and leaned forward toward Mikaila’s lips.

“Of course I’ll come with you, Jon. How could I think of doing otherwise after your confession?!”

Again the backpack rocked against Jon’s leg. Jon gave Bo a gentle kick.

Mikaila’s lips, a gentle pink, moist and inviting, opened slightly and came to meet his. Her curly hair fell forward and brushed against Jon’s cheek and the smell of buttery popcorn popped in his nose.

The weight of a bowling ball came smashing down on Jon’s foot, his lips an inch away from Mikaila’s…

And Jon was back on the bus.

When he’d fallen asleep earlier the backpack with Bo inside had been sitting on the seat next to him. Not anymore. The backpack and Bo had rolled on top of Jon’s lap. The nylon of the pack rose and fell with the sounds of wet, flapping snores. With that, the appeal of moist lips and kisses exited the building, leaving behind a shameful heat around his neck. Red anger flooded into Jon’s vision, except… he didn’t know who he was mad at. Was he angry with Mikaila for turning her back on the group, on Isis, on him?

He slumped down in his seat, blew out breaths of frustrated air, and fingered the knots of threads of the friendship bracelet tied around his wrist. Or am I mad at myself for not stopping Mick from leaving?

Jon rubbed the sleep from his eyes and tried to order the nauseating wave of muddled feelings inside him.

Would he have told Mikaila he possessed romantic feelings for her just to keep her from leaving the group? And how much of Jon’s dream was rooted in truth? If he followed the root, would it lead him back to some tree with Mikaila sitting underneath it, waiting to shower him with kisses and embrace him? Better question, would he run to her with open arms?

He touched his cheek, expecting to sweep her brow curls away. All he found… confusion.

“Jon, you wake?” Bo whispered with clear concern, the hybrid’s gruff voice muffled by the confines of the pack.

Looking down at his pack, Jon caught the glint of two eyes staring back at him through the darkness of the backpack’s main compartment. Each was like a chip of obsidian.

Sticking his hand inside the pack, Jon rustled the fur around Bo’s thick neck. “Go back to sleep, buddy. I’m okay, for the moment. Just a… an odd dream is all. It woke me up. Nothin’ to worry over.”

The nylon weave of the backpack shifted, making a rough rubbing sound as Bo snuggled down into a comfortable nest within the compartment.

Peeking at the crack separating the two seats in front of him, Jon noted Alice and George sleeping. Her head rested on his broad, muscular shoulder.

To see two of his friends so connected and happy within each other’s casual embrace left Jon feeling lonely.

Don’t forget confused. I’m a whole heap of confused.

Outside, the sun bowed to the entrance of night. As the season was fall, the time could only be six now. The group of teens and hybrids had been traveling less than a full day. An escape from a military facility. Switching buses three times at random to throw off any trail the Carpenter military might attempt to follow later. No one was fighting sleep.

Jon checked on Isis. Inside the pet carrier Mikaila had brought with her—to shuttle the avian hybrid around with minimal question from random gawkers—Isis lay in a tortured sleep. One tiny wing covered her head. Her body shook with distress. Like Jon, the hybrid also could not escape her dreams.

That was enough of a reason for Jon’s anger to return. He wrapped himself in that warm but threadbare blanket.

From within one of the backpack’s compartments, Jon took a palm-sized mp3 player. He shoved the ear buds in and turned up the volume, skipping to a song about mad sorrow, about love lost and stoking the fire within the empty space in the heart until it raged.

Quickly, Jon found sleep through the smooth motion of the bus’s progress on the darkening highway combined with the screams of his heavy metal. If only the sleep could have lasted longer.

***

In Clinton D. Harding’s debut novel “Our Monsters”, Jon Graves and his friends escaped their parents and the military, leaving behind the only home they’d ever known, the small town of Carpenter. But their freedom is short lived as they find themselves in more danger than before they left Carpenter.

“Bad Monsters”—the second book The Our Monsters Chronicles, released March 2014—picked up where its prequel ended. Jon and his friends are on the run and hunted and by General Mauser and his military dogs. Jon can practically feel them breathing down his neck, as the jaws of the military dogs snapping at his heels.

Blood is spilled, friendly and not, and now Jon must answer his friends’ questions sooner than later, or risk one of those friends dying. He’s just not sure he’s the person to be deciding their fates or if he, Alice, and George are fully prepared to walk away from their normal lives.

A farm in northern California may serve as salvation to this scared, but brave, group of teenagers. However, can they trust the inhabitants they find there, who themselves have a history with Carpenter? If Jon can talk his way past the shotgun in his face, he might just discover what he and his friends need; answers about the history of Carpenter, the hybrids, the powers the teens borrow from their hybrids and who are the true monsters. In all this confusion and danger, Jon may also find a young woman who can help heal the wounds left by Mikaila when she left him and the group.

Pick up “Bad Monsters”, the second installment in The Our Monsters Chronicles, is now available and can be found in e-book and paperback form at major online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords.

***

Clinton D Harding (author pic) When Clinton D. Harding is not busy wrestling and taming wild Scottish Terriers in wilderness of Oxnard California, he’s using a magic pen he pulled from a stone to craft new worlds filled with fantastic beasts and evils that need fighting. He is also the author-publisher of The Our Monsters Chronicles, a YA series of novels that combines fantasy/sci-fi elements with horror chills. For more information about Harding and his creations visit his website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or become a fan at Goodreads.

‘Bad Monsters’ Blog Tour – Guest Post by Clinton Harding

Bad Monsters -- Blog Tour Banner

Following on from our first feature in the Bad Monsters blog tour on Tuesday, author Clinton Harding is back with us today talking inspiration and Japanese anime.

Inspiration – Japanese Anime

In Clinton D. Harding’s debut novel “Our Monsters”, Jon Graves and his friends escaped their parents and the military, leaving behind the only home they’d ever known, the small town of Carpenter. But their freedom is short lived as they find themselves in more danger than before they left Carpenter.

“Bad Monsters”—the second book The Our Monsters Chronicles, released March 2014—picked up where its prequel ended.

Jon and his friends are on the run and hunted and by General Mauser and his military dogs. Jon can practically feel them breathing down his neck, as the jaws of the military dogs snapping at his heels.

Blood is spilled, friendly and not, and now Jon must answer his friends’ questions sooner than later, or risk one of those friends dying. He’s just not sure he’s the person to be deciding their fates or if he, Alice, and George are fully prepared to walk away from their normal lives.

A farm in northern California may serve as salvation to this scared, but brave, group of teenagers. However, can they trust the inhabitants they find there, who themselves have a history with Carpenter? If Jon can talk his way past the shotgun in his face, he might just discover what he and his friends need; answers about the history of Carpenter, the hybrids, the powers the teens borrow from their hybrids and who are the true monsters. In all this confusion and danger, Jon may also find a young woman who can help heal the wounds left by Mikaila when she left him and the group.

Pick up “Bad Monsters”, the second installment in The Our Monsters Chronicles, is now available and can be found in e-book and paperback form at major online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords.

 ***

 Sometimes writers know what story they want to write. I’ve read that Brandon Sanderson knew he wanted to write a high fantasy heist story where each member of the crew had a particular magical skill. He specifically references “Ocean’s Eleven” as a catalyst. So was born the Mistborn series.

Other times an idea arrives in a writer’s head and the origin is unknown. A dream we neither foresee nor control. Or better yet, these phantom inspirations are like the acquaintance we glimpse for a second on a crowded street. We think we saw a familiar face but… nah, just one of those faces.

The Our Monster Chronicles birthed from that familiar face in the crowd, though I had no clue at the time I saw the face.

A friend of mine said to me after reading the first Monsters book, “You know what this reminds me of…?”

I said in return, “No. What?”

He explained.

Ding. That friend had yanked on the string and clicked on the reliable but sometimes elusive when you’re in a dark room light bulb.

My response was, “Yeah? You think so? I guess the story does!”

As all children do, I tended to watch a lot of television. Probably more than most actually. The little me watched a lot of cartoons. Some of those shows were horribly dubbed—I prefer subtitles these days—anime from Japan like “Speed Racer” and “Voltron”. When I got older—about middle school age—I discovered Toonami, a programming block on a cable network that played some of the best, character-driven, rich storytelling on television. These were shows like “Cowboy Bebob”, Gundam, “Rurouni Kenshin”, “Fullmetal Alchemist”, and much more.

The Our Monster Chronicles is inspired by those imports. The shows starred plucky teenagers and children moving from adolescence to maturity, wielding great skills and powers, who were pure of heart and willing to fight to the end. Adulthood had not corrupted them. Instead of following their corrupted elders, the young heroes forged their own path and by doing so changed the world. Through imagination and using heart, they tore down establishments that suffocate the future, destroyed past societies, and sometimes killed the very earth the people called home. The movies of Hayao Miyazaki in particular embody these ideas.

Since I grew up with a love for anime, I guess these series and films inspired me, at back in my sometimes dark, always twisted subconscious.

One anime in particular inspired my Monsters series. There was a show, Digimon, that my books tread close to. I only vaguely remember watching the show but I must have been touched by its ideas. The children of the series befriended monsters from another world, bonded with those monsters, shared a connection, and fought together against epic evil, darkness and corruption.

Sound familiar?

I never really thought about Digimon when I was taking notes on what would become the Monsters series. However, my tastes in fiction, what I look for in some of the stories I seek out, were impressed upon me at an early age. Those tastes will always show through in my writing.

Now, anime is not my writing’s only inspiration. I wonder what my next work(s) will be birthed from? I look forward to writing that story, whatever form it takes.

***

When Clinton D. Harding is not busy wrestling and taming wild Scottish Terriers in wilderness of Oxnard California, he’s using a magic pen he pulled from a stone to craft new worlds filled with fantastic beasts and evils that need fighting. He is also the author-publisher of The Our Monsters Chronicles, a YA series of novels that combines fantasy/sci-fi elements with horror chills. For more information about Harding and his creations visit his website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or become a fan at Goodreads.

——————————————

 

‘Bad Monsters’ Blog Tour – Interview

Bad Monsters -- Blog Tour Banner

Back in February we told you that we’d be hosting a special event in March for author Clinton Harding, as part of the blog tour for his latest book Bad Monsters. Well, today is the first day of the tour (click the banner to go to Clinton’s own website and find out more about the book) and we’re kicking off our week of features with one of our ‘This or That’ interviews with the author himself…

Hero or Villain?

My first impulse is to shout hero. Who doesn’t want to save the day, kick some evil ass, and get the girl and the key to the kingdom/city? Then again, the villain gets to be angsty and brooding and is excused for being angry at everything. Plus, there is always a chance a villain can be redeemed and that is a good story, usually. So… Yeah, villain it is.

Pirates or Zombies?

I’ve always been partial to the dashing, swashbuckling rogue. Then there’s the booty… get your mind out the gutter! Let’s go with the pirate. Arrrgh!

Cruiser or Racer?

I’m always going fast. Racer.

Minimalist or Hoarder?

Depends. I need order in my chaotic life. It’s how I write, with detailed notes, charts, and a plan. Yet I hoard novels, comic books, and other cool things. As long as the things are cool, hoarding is acceptable. Plus! Having a huge e-book collection is completely acceptable because that obsession of mine no longer takes up valuable house-space… so says my wife.

Sprint or Marathon?

Life is about the journey, not the destination. Although I’m always rushing to fit everything into my day, sometime it’s nice to relax and the let the day just be. Plus, movie marathons are awesome!  

Popcorn or Chocolate?

Mmmm… popcorn. I’m not much for sweets. Plus, the smell of soy-butter and freshly popped kerns takes me back to my last years in high school when I worked at the local movie theater. Good times.

Half-Empty or Half-Full?

Life is better when the glass is half-full. Then there are those half-empty days.

London or New York?

Never been to either city but I want to visit both. London is higher on my to-do list since it seems much more magical and filled with a richer history.

Cats or Dogs?

Dogs are man’s best friend.

Apples or Oranges?

Apples. Less messy and thus more portable.

Classical or Pop?

Classical. A short piece of classical composition is able to capture more emotion than most flavor-of-the-month pop music. Feelings are good.

Hogwarts or Mallory Towers?

Not sure what or where Mallory Towers is, before my time I guess. Put Hogwarts up against any place and I’ll always choose to head to magical boarding school.

Hermione or Ron?

Hermione. She was always the person Harry could count on. Seems like Ron was always in a mood and running off to sort his own insecurities, you can count on Ron to return but what if one day he comes running back a minute too late?

Cause or Effect?

By nature I’m a worrier. I’m always concerned with the effects of my actions or the reactions to what I write.

Heads or Tails?

Can I flip a coin?

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter keeps my ramblings to a minimum.

Elf or Dwarf?

Dwarf. These characters tend to possess more ingenuity and they have great beards too.

Text or Talk?

I’m an introvert at heart. Texting allows me to socialize in comfort. It’s quick and I can think about exactly what I want to say.

Reading or Writing?

I should be writing more than I am reading. Writing is more productive for my goals. I write so others may read.

Good Book or Good Film?

Good books always last longer for me and are more fulfilling.  

Vampire or Angel?

There’s something about angels. Perhaps it’s that they’re tragic creatures. Not human. No souls (in most iterations and mythology). Cast aside by their creator in favor of fault-prone (sometimes atheist) monkeys. Monkeys who only ask “save me” or “I need” or “I want” from guardian angels. We’re sitting on a powder keg ready to blow and release razor-sharp wings and heavenly maces of death. Forgot the zombie apocalypse, I’m waiting for pissed-off angelic beings to snap and come down from on high to kick my ass!

James Bond or Jason Bourne?

Bond will always be the superspy. He’s the original suave man-of-action. I’ll have to go with Daniel Craig as my favorite Bond as he’s how I always pictured the character after reading a couple of the Fleming novels.

Drive or Be Driven?

I usually need someone to drive me, especially on long trips. I tend to fall asleep when driving long distances, the cadence of the road always relaxes me. Plus! When I’m not sleeping I can read. I have no problem reading while in the car.

Summer or Winter?

Winter. There are only so many pieces of clothing you can take off when it’s hot before you start offending the Puritans. When it’s cold, you can bundle up with as many blankets as needed. The winter is more romantic too.

Early Bird or Night Owl?

I’m forced to be both. My day job has me up before the rooster at 5:00AM so I can race the sun to the office. Then at night, when everyone is in bed, I get my chance to write. My true nature is as a night owl, those hours of quiet when everyone is in bed.

Quiet Night In or Out On The Town?

Always a night in. Good books. Movie marathons. Board games and video games. Throw in some good friends and you have a good time or enjoy the quiet of solitude. There’s so much to enjoy.

——————————————

About Bad Monsters

In Clinton D. Harding’s debut novel “Our Monsters”, Jon Graves and his friends escaped their parents and the military, leaving behind the only home they’d ever known, the small town of Carpenter. But their freedom is short lived as they find themselves in more danger than before they left Carpenter.

“Bad Monsters”—the second book The Our Monsters Chronicles, released March 2014—picked up where its prequel ended. Jon and his friends are on the run and hunted and by General Mauser and his military dogs. Jon can practically feel them breathing down his neck, as the jaws of the military dogs snapping at his heels.

Synopsis Blood is spilled, friendly and not, and now Jon must answer his friends’ questions sooner than later, or risk one of those friends dying. He’s just not sure he’s the person to be deciding their fates or if he, Alice, and George are fully prepared to walk away from their normal lives. 

A farm in northern California may serve as salvation to this scared, but brave, group of teenagers. However, can they trust the inhabitants they find there, who themselves have a history with Carpenter? If Jon can talk his way past the shotgun in his face, he might just discover what he and his friends need; answers about the history of Carpenter, the hybrids, the powers the teens borrow from their hybrids and who are the true monsters. In all this confusion and danger, Jon may also find a young woman who can help heal the wounds left by Mikaila when she left him and the group.

 Pick up “Bad Monsters”, the second installment in The Our Monsters Chronicles, is now available and can be found in e-book and paperback form at major online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords.

About the Author When Clinton D. Harding is not busy wrestling and taming wild Scottish Terriers in wilderness of Oxnard California, he’s using a magic pen he pulled from a stone to craft new worlds filled with fantastic beasts and evils that need fighting. He is also the author-publisher of The Our Monsters Chronicles, a YA series of novels that combines fantasy/sci-fi elements with horror chills. For more information about Harding and his creations visit his website, like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or become a fan at Goodreads.

IAM Excerpt…Bad Monsters

Bad Monsters Cover (finished)-1As promised – here’s Clinton Harding’s second feature of the week – an excerpt from his latest book Bad Monsters. Enjoy!

CHAPTER ONE

Glass crunched underneath the soles General Mauser’s high polished boots. The sound gave him pause and he fought the urge to grind his teeth with each additional step.

Four teenagers… four children managed to move through a heavily fortified military base with so much ease?!

Shards of glass lay scattered about the circular room. Above him, a breach the size of a small adult human punctuated the steel framing of the domed ceiling, the metal bent inward, the glass panes gone. The sound of groaning metal and breaking glass tore at the general’s mind, a dull razor against paper.

How many internal hybrid attacks had Carpenter endured in the last few years? Uncountable. That is the hazard of working with beasts, with monsters. You don’t walk into a minefield and expect not to step on at least one land mine. In the past each monster incident had ended with the escaped hybrids sedated, the threat neutralized and contained. Minimal paperwork required. This time… a handful of soldiers lay in the infirmary and security found three high-ranking officers handcuffed to a pipe underneath a sink.

Embarrassing.

Children had fought and subdued Mauser’s soldiers, had handcuffed his lead scientist, his head of security, and a captain. Not hybrids but children. There would be a hand-cramping amount of paperwork to fill out in order to explain this mess… Mauser would not subject his hands to that ache, his incompetent subordinates would.

Embarrassing.

At least no other hybrid managed to escape its bonds, except the four.

Mauser forced himself to stop grinding his teeth. He took in a deep breath and held it for the space of half a minute before exhaling.

None of this was supposed to happen. The hybrids were to be taken from the children, brought back to the base, examined, and contained once more. If it were not for his own son’s blubbering tears and his wife’s insistence that he and the boy have a “man-to-man” conversation, the General would have been at the base last night.

Now the newest, youngest batch of Carpenter hybrids was gone… again. This was not part of the original plan.

“We adapt or die,” the General muttered under his breath. He had spoken these words to himself once before. It had been two weeks after the fall out in New Mexico, after the monsters ripped their way through to his world, his country, and proceeded to tear apart rightful citizens of these United States. He picked up the pieces of tragedy those many years ago and refocused disaster into opportunity.

Glass crunched and scraped as Mauser turned on his heel.

Professor Martin Graves stood in front of a stainless steel worktable polishing a set of surgical instruments, likely to keep his hands busy. He had changed out of his surgical scrubs and into a pair of rumbled suit slacks and a white un-ironed shirt with the sleeves cuffed up past the elbows. Tired and miserable, Graves kept his back to Mauser. That spoke more than words.

Can I trust him? Mauser believed it possible that Graves had helped his son and his son’s monster escape Carpenter. How else could the boy, his friends, and the beasts have ghosted past security? They had certainly made an entrance. From what Mauser understood, it was his lead scientist’s badge after all that allowed the group of teens access to the underground facility.

Then there was First Lieutenant Greg Marshall, leaning against the doorway, rubbing his wrist absently. Another family man, one more devoted than the absent Graves, for sure. The reason why Mauser brought Marshall to Carpenter was the soldier’s values. His commitment to his family. That loyalty made a man strong, made him willing to die for his beliefs and loves. Yet a family man’s priorities centered on his family, sacrifices were not easily made outside that inner circle.

Neither man dared to face Mauser’s disapproving gaze, Graves and Marshall wanting to avoid admonishment for the blundering display of idiocy the previous evening.

Mauser glanced at his wristwatch. Morning. The night had slipped by as quickly as the children and the beasts.

She should be here soon.

As he lowered his arm, Mauser caught the sight of the exam room table. Strange to see the restraints not snapped with great strength or cut by a knife. The undone brass buckle of the two hands span wide belly restraint swayed, nearly brushing the ground. Its casual ease taunted Mauser. Yes, it had been that easy. No extraordinary powers needed.

Both subordinate officers had offered their stories to Mauser. Neither had known their sons would break into the mountain base. Nor did they understand how Grave’s son had burst through the domed ceiling like a superhero and walked away without a broken bone. Stern lectures and a month without television or video games would not be enough to produce hangdog teenage faces and second thoughts. Graves and Marshall would write reports later and their hands would indeed cramp. If nothing, Carpenter was a government, a bureaucracy, right down to the last scrap of paper and drop of ink.

I should have fought harder to keep the families away from these projects. Mauser chided himself for that moment of weakness when all this started.

Mauser believed his men needed their families close. He also wanted to keep the soldiers from rotating to new posts, to protect the integrity of the confidential operation and to hide the project in plain sight. For those reasons he allowed Carpenter to grow around a town, for the civilians and military to merge into a cohesive unit. Mistake number one.

A recent mistake was letting Sergeant Major Scott leave the room. Scott headed the Lightning Squad. With tanks strapped to their backs, each filled with a nerve-twitching amount of hydro-electricity, the team was effective in controlling a hybrid. Scott also had a reputation for getting things done, costs be damned if he preserved a greater amount of lives. Mauser’s kind of soldier.

For what Mauser needed next, Scott is the preferred soldier.

“I’m sending out a team to recapture the escaped monsters,” Mauser said to neither man in particular. Striding to the door, to where Marshall stood, he made to leave.

The air stirred as the other men surfaced from their downcast reverie.

Another thought occurred to the General. “Capture the monsters and bring in the children.”

A pause.

Glass crunched. How many of the panes did the Graves boy bring down?

Magnificent potential.

“I’ll establish my team immediate—” Marshall started to say before his commanding officer cut him off.

“No,” Mauser said flatly, simply, and louder than necessary. He intended for his voice to roar like thunder, to straighten backs. The General commanded authority and he would have obedience.

Letting the singular word resonate and dig, Mauser continued more quietly. “First Lieutenant, you are needed here in Carpenter. You must maintain order at our facility. Plus, your boy is out there and your judgment will be clouded if you lead.”

That is how you ground someone, Mauser acknowledged proudly.

“But this is… you… ” Marshall started to speak out of turn, to question his superior officer’s, his commander’s orders. Then he remembered himself. With little emotion, Marshall corrected his delivery. “Sir, if not myself then who will be set as squad leader?”

“Scott.”

“Sir, if you don’t mind me saying,” Marshall began slowly, choosing his words carefully, not wanting to again question orders or speak ill of an enlisted man so near his own rank.

“I do mind, First Lieutenant,” Mauser said, reaching for the doorknob. “Scott is more qualified for this mission than yourself. End of discussion.”

Mauser cut off the man with a simple gesture. This young military officer was not thinking straight, he’d shortly before seen his son walk out of his life, disobeying parental orders to extricate himself from the military’s affairs. In the wild, if a cub questioned the lion, the lion would eat the impudent pretender. Plus, Mauser was unsure he could trust the father of one of the teens who’d stolen the hybrids. Not at this moment anyway.

Until now, Graves had chosen to continue sanitizing and polishing his surgical tools. Smarter man than Marshall. Maybe Mauser could…

Graves dropped a gleaming scalpel, or perhaps the professor lightly tossed it down. The tool hit with metallic clatter.

“You mean Scott has more experience with hybrids,” Graves said, not turning his gaze to meet Mauser’s own.

Mauser arched a bushy eyebrow, raising it over the rim of his spectacles.

Marshall looked between the military man and the scientist, not understanding, still rubbing his wrist. “Professor Graves, what do you—”

“He’s sending Scott’s team and a team of hybrids to take down the escaped ones.”

Mauser did not flinch or acknowledge this information as factual. Silence was sometimes more powerful than words. Silence could unravel a man’s composure more than a passionate shout. Marshall was a family man. He cared for his son no matter the boy’s transgressions. He was also ten years younger than Graves and that gap was more apparent the closer you stepped to the edge for the man’s love for his child.

Turning the knob, the lock disengaged with an audible click. Pushing the door open, Mauser walked out. He paused when his First Lieutenant spoke out unchecked.

“Our fully grown hybrids are not field tested,” the soldier said, stepping into the threshold of the lab door, “there’s a chance they might rip the escaped subjects apart… and the kids too!”

Mauser chose to ignore the reckless passion in the soldier’s voice, to turn the cheek at the slap. Only now had Marshall validated the General’s decision to involve Scott.

“They will be once this is over,” Mauser said. “If the children are smart, they will turn themselves over to Scott and his team. Besides, from what you both told me, it sounds like the children are more than capable of handling themselves. Let us observe how this plays out… shall we.”

Not a recommendation… an order.

“Let it go, Greg,” Graves interjected softly.

“You’re going along with this, Martin. I know you’re a man of science but… god man, Jon is your boy.”

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity since Generation One, First Lieutenant,” Mauser said to Marshall when the professor did not answer immediately. “Who knew we’d be so fortunate. Believe me when I say… we want the children back more than their freakish pets.”

Getting Russell a viper would have been safer than one of the monsters, Mauser mused with wry humor.

Clipped to his belt, a handheld radio crackled and a voice called out to Mauser. Mauser answered that he was listening and then waited.

“Sir, we’re escorting the girl inside the facility now. We’ll put her in a holding room until you’re ready to speak with her. Over”

More white noise crackled. Mauser answered with an affirmative and placed the radio back on his belt, the opposite side from his firearm. He did not excuse himself.

  ————————————–

Want to read more? Check out the links!

http://clintondharding.com (official site)

https://twitter.com/#!/ClintonDHarding (twitter)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clinton-D-Harding/76506701006 (facebook)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5381520.Clinton_D_Harding (goodreads)

IAM Book of the Day…Bad Monsters by Clinton D Harding

Guest Feature

Guest Feature

Author Clinton Harding is a frequent guest on Aside From Writing, and today we’re excited to be sharing his latest book Bad Monsters with you. This is the sequel to Our Monsters, which appeared in our first Indie Author Month last year. Tomorrow we’ll be featuring an excerpt from Bad Monsters, so make sure you come back for that! You can also win copies of both books in the MASSIVE giveaway we’re running for IAM2013 – what are you waiting for?! 🙂 

Bad Monsters Cover (finished)-1 Jon and his friends escaped their parents and the military, leaving behind the only home they’d ever known, the small town of Carpenter. But their freedom is short lived as they find themselves in more danger than before they left Carpenter. Now they are on the run and hunted and by General Mauser and his military dogs. Jon can practically feel them breathing down his neck, as the jaws of the military dogs snapping at his heels.

Blood is spilled, friendly and not, and now Jon must answer his friends’ questions sooner than later, or risk one of those friends dying. He’s just not sure he’s the person to be deciding their fates or if he, Alice, and George are fully prepared to walk away from their normal lives.

A farm in northern California may serve as salvation to this scared, but brave, group of teenagers. However, can they trust the inhabitants they find there, who themselves have a history with Carpenter? If Jon can talk his way past the shotgun in his face, he might just discover what he and his friends need; answers about the history of Carpenter, the hybrids, the powers the teens borrow from their hybrids and who are the true monsters. In all this confusion and danger, Jon may also find a young woman who can help heal the wounds left by Mikaila when she left him and the group.

“Bad Monsters” is the second installment in the Our Monsters Chronicles, a young adult adventure novel where a teenager’s greatest weapons are loyalty, love and most importantly friendship. Jon, Bo, George, Trick, Alice, Peppy, and Isis will need each other if they are to survive hunting season and–as Bo says–the “bad monsters” coming their way.

Our Monsters - CoverYesterday Jon Graves believed living and going to high school in the military occupied town of Carpenter was a snooze-fest. That is until a routine fieldtrip to Carpenter’s science labs, when Jon and his friends uncover a military secret, the reason why the US Army brought their parents to Carpenter… to create a top secret, genetically engineered species of monsters. Yeah… that’s right… MONSTERS!

Now Jon and his four friends have liberated and adopted five of the monsters, vowing to keep the five monsters hidden away from harm. These are not puppies and kitten, though. Keeping the monsters a secret turns into a difficult task when each one begins to develop amazing powers. And soon a betrayal from within the circle of friends will threaten to unravel the groups’ plans.

In order to keep the promise his friends made and prevent the Carpenter military from subjecting each to further inhuman experiments, Jon will need to bring his friends together for a rescue mission. Mysterious powers the teens begin to exhibit will offer aid but ultimately the group’s friendship will save the day. It’s just another chaotic day in high school… yeah, right!

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About the Author

Clinton grew up in Southern California, where the sun shines all day and where most kids spend their days outdoors skinning knees and browning their flesh. He spent those same days inside, reading comics, books, and dreaming of fantasy worlds. These days he not only dreams but he creates and writes about those same worlds. In college Clinton found himself in the dregs of a business school, studying accounting. Sneaking English and philosophy courses into his schedule were the only things that kept him sane! As a result, he spent way more than four years getting a well-rounded degree. Adult books and books for kids, Clinton reads it all these days. He still enjoys traditional American comics and manga/anime from Asia, but when not writing he can also be found immersing himself in video games.

            Clinton today still resides in Southern California with his wife, Kathy and their two Scottish terriers, Mac and Bonni (wheaten and black).

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

http://clintondharding.com (official site)

https://twitter.com/#!/ClintonDHarding (twitter)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clinton-D-Harding/76506701006 (facebook)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5381520.Clinton_D_Harding (goodreads)

Guest Post…Orphan Heroics

Think about what defines a literary hero in speculative fiction—science fiction or fantasy. The hero must possess courage. Given. He or she must be virtuous and good. They would not be a hero if they were the opposite. The list can go on, long enough maybe to fill all the shelves in a brick and mortar bookstore. What about a hero’s background… Where does he or she come from? Not the physical place on a map, though that might matter. Rather, what type of environment does the hero grow up in before setting off for adventure, to save the world?

 

There was a discussion on one of Goodreads’ group boards last year. Members were discussing the backgrounds writers give to their protagonists. They were specifically asking this question: do our heroes always need to be orphans? Why cannot the hero come from a family with three brothers, two sisters, loving parents, and a modest, happy homestead? The complaint some members had was that many fantasy novels/series rarely have a protagonist who comes from a well-rounded, well-adjusted, loving family home. They said too many heroes in speculative fiction are orphans with broken homes, that this type of character has become overused.

 

Consider this. A boy lives with his aunt and uncle, farmers tilling a meager existence in a desert wasteland. The boy doesn’t remember his parents, they’re out of the picture before his adolescent mind can capture a memory of their faces. He longs for adventure. One day the boy comes home to find his aunt and uncle dead, murdered. His home is ravaged. A grizzled wizard sweeps the boy away to start a new life filled with adventures but with obstacles that will test his mettle and shape him into the savior for a galaxy far, far away. Oh yeah, along this hero’s journey the boy also figures out his father is the most dastardly villain in that galaxy far, far away.

 

Talk about a broken home. If you didn’t already guess, the aforementioned “origin” is Luke Skywalker’s beginning. He’s the quintessential hero model. Is he a tragic hero? No. Luke is good and just, a virtuous character. He does not befall a misfortune based on his own frailty, his character flaw. The tragic hero is Luke’s father, the scourge of the galaxy, Dark Vader, a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker. Alternatively, Luke is an example of a hero born of tragedy. The same type of hero a number of GoodReads members were decrying. An orphan, society’s castaway.

 

I maintain that the hero born of tragedy needs a catalyst to propel him or her from mediocrity to something beyond what he or she believes themselves capable of achieving. Desire is not enough. For a character to say, “I want to be a knight” or “I want to be a sorcerer” is all well and good. These are noble aspirations in a normal world, except speculative fiction is not a reflection of the normal world. Magic wielding baddies, twisted and malformed entities of evil, gods with chips on their shoulders and too much power, aliens with technology capable of blowing up a planet, all of these antagonists threaten life in any given fantasy world. To stand toe-to-toe against these threats, to prevail against these oppositions, the protagonist needs to aspire to greatness. Luke Skywalker was never going to leave Tatooine. He wanted to become a Rebel Alliance pilot but he could not escape the farm. It’s unfortunate that stormtroopers killed his aunt and uncle and destroyed the family farm but the event propelled Luke toward his destiny. Before this event Obi-wan Kenobi offered Luke a chance to leave with him and save Leia from the evil Empire. Luke turned down Kenobi. Remember? It was his surrogate parents dying, his way of life destroyed, that left Luke with no options.

 

Aspirations are noble. However, aspirations are not that push. Oh yeah, it’s a component of the continual flame in the belly that pulls out all the stops, but I believe it’s the source of that flame, the striking of the match that is most important. That flame is hottest, brightest, when it’s lit and fueled by a terrible event or set of circumstances. A character who stand in the ashes of his or her family, a past, has an even greater motivator underneath their feet to press them into taking not just steps forward toward a goal but leaps. Heroes take leaps. And when they think they cannot go any further, that flame guides them the rest of the way.

 

In history, there are stories of army commanders sailing their troops across the sea to concur lands. After landing, those commanders would burn the boats. Nowhere to go but forward, the soldiers fought harder and longer because they had no escape route. Die or succeed. If the former, they would die in the pursuit of success. Heroes with tragedy in their pasts also have no other place to go but forward.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Our heroes need fundamental building blocks for their moral foundations. Family units, fathers and mothers, friends, all provide those initial life lessons that first shape the hero. Potential heroes from horrible backgrounds, like a street urchin or the harlot, need positive influences in their lives in order to strive toward heroics. Instead of families these characters might have friends who sacrifice for them, save them from dangers, give them a loaf of bread despite their own bellies rumbling. Thus, positive influences, the family or segregate family (i.e. friends), are important to shaping the hero born of tragedy. I dare say it’s a necessary component.

 

There are also examples of hero characters that come from stable, mundane backgrounds with good homes, as opposed to the hero orphans in my initial argument. I’m referring to the shepherds, the Rand al’Thors of fantasy. But even these heroes are thrust into adventures based on tragedies. For example, in the Wheel of Time series protagonist Rand and his friends from the Two Rivers don’t necessarily want to become heroes or fight evil. An attack on their village by hideous monsters called Trolics and the intervention of a female wizard known as an Aes Sedai force Rand and his friends into their later roles as heroes and saviors. Again, the heroes are born of tragedy. In this case their families are whole (except Rand, technically, his backstory is more complex and I won’t delve into the particulars), which lends more to my point that heroes need a stable foundation of values and morals rooted by family and friends in order to make their future choices.

 

Some readers will disagree with me but I stand by my belief that heroes need a flame to light their path, to show them where to plant their feet along the path of destiny and fate. That flame originates from somewhere and not always from happy beginnings. Striking a match can be violent; sometimes a house catches fire and burns down. In many instances these characters are the orphans, the beggars, the harlots… the lowliest of the low. They possess hearts of gold yet are defined by family or personal misfortunes or society’s rejection. Strength and courage are their greatest weapons, sharper than any sword and mightier than a thrown fireball.

 

Who are your favorite heroes born of personal tragedy? Sound off and debate. Maybe you believe a hero needs only a good home and a strong foundation of morals to fight the evils of the world. Again, sound off and give examples.

 

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About the Author

Clinton grew up in Southern California, where the sun shines all day and where most kids spend their days outdoors skinning knees and browning their flesh. He spent those same days inside, reading comics, books, and dreaming of fantasy worlds. These days he not only dreams but he creates and writes about those same worlds. In college Clinton found himself in the dregs of a business school, studying accounting. Sneaking English and philosophy courses into his schedule were the only things that kept him sane! As a result, he spent way more than four years getting a well-rounded degree. Adult books and books for kids, Clinton reads it all these days. He still enjoys traditional American comics and manga/anime from Asia, but when not writing he can also be found immersing himself in video games.

            Clinton today still resides in Southern California with his wife, Kathy and their two Scottish terriers, Mac and Bonni (wheaten and black).

————————————–

Want to know more? Check out the links!

http://clintondharding.com (official site)

https://twitter.com/#!/ClintonDHarding (twitter)

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clinton-D-Harding/76506701006 (facebook)

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5381520.Clinton_D_Harding (goodreads)