IAM Guest Feature…A Day in the Life of an Author

To launch our Indie Author Month 2014, we’re pleased to welcome back to the blog author and satirist Michael Cargill. Regular visitors to the blog may well recognise Michael from his previous interviews and features where we’ve reviewed his books (see previous features here) – today he’s back to tell us about being an author.

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A day in the life of an author

By Michael Cargill

 

The other day I received an email from a friend complaining that I spend far too much time writing and not enough time socialising. I found myself surprised by the email, initially because I couldn’t help but notice that the apostrophes were in all the wrong places, but as I read through it a realisation began to dawn on me: my lifestyle has become wholly incompatible with how my friends live.

I’ve been an author for nearly three years now and, although the changes that this has brought to my life are dramatic and overwhelming, they have occurred at such a gradual pace that I hadn’t really noticed them until now. Imagine travelling across Europe, absorbing and immersing yourself in all the sights and local cultures as you go, and before you know it you’re dining on racoon goulash and vodka coffee in the Siberian plains like it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s as if the Twilight Zone has come to life… and by Jove is it effing marvellous.

This morning my alarm clock went off as it usually does and after splashing my face with cold mineral water I had to shoo Apple, my Siamese cat, off of my yoga mat lest he claw it to bits and spoil my chi. Bear in mind that I get up at midnight so there’s always a few minutes of fumbling around in the dark as I try to get my bearings but once all the lanterns have been lit (why do the matches never seem to be in the same place that I left them?) I’ll spend a few minutes doing leg stretches and finger exercises before stepping into my sun-blushed slippers and unlocking the door to my office. I sit down, make myself comfy, and check with Roald Dahl to see if anyone has sent me any important letters, fan mail, or ideas for future stories, all of which happen with surprising regularity these days. Although he has something of a high pitched voice and an annoying tendency to ramble on a bit, the great man does an important job for me so I patiently wait for him to finish. Just to clarify, Roald Dahl is the name I’ve given to my fax machine and may God bless his noisily efficient soul.

With all the boring admin and paperwork out of the way, I’m free to move onto the more interesting things that the modern world has blessed us with. If it’s a Wednesday I’ll fire up the laptop and connect up to one of those online elearning portals that are all the rage these days. Although Sting and his wife have developed something of a reputation for bad time keeping, their tantric sex meditation sessions are worth their wait in gold so I just sit tight until they’re ready to get things started.

When that palaver (finally) finishes my other alarm clock goes off to remind me that it’s 6am and the local coffee shop will be opening up for the day. After popping down on my scooter I’ll order a strawberry latte and, depending on how hungry I’m feeling, maybe even an apricot croissant.

By the way, does anyone else’s coffee shop sell those overpriced wafer biscuits? £3.50 for a flimsy hazelnut cream snack? No thanks, not when I’ve already got a bag of Melba toast in the kitchen cupboard.

Anyway, the barista is a pretty girl from Romania who pronounces the silent ‘p’ in the word receipt and I’m sure she’d be thrilled to learn that she made a brief appearance in one of my books… and the three year old girl in a pushchair who pulled a blanket over her head when I poked my tongue out at her, she’d be tickled pink to hear that her shyness planted the seed for an unwritten story that has been bouncing around in my head for the past six months or so.

There’s also the teenager in baggy jeans and oversized baseball cap who, even though I only caught sight of him for a few seconds on the London Underground, gave me the idea for the as yet unpublished short story that is currently sitting pretty on my external hard drive. And the woman in black tights who was sat cross-legged in her chair, completely oblivious to the fact that I was staring at her as she casually bounced a loose shoe off the end of her foot… she’d probably think I was an oddball if she knew that her slender thighs were the inspiration for a short scene in a book I published last year.

Once I’ve had my fill of coffee and grown bored of observing the actions of people minding their own business I’ll scoot back home to check my sales ranking. I load up the Amazon page, enter my password, and OHMYGOSHASALE! This is wonderful, it’s been ages since someone expressed an interest in… hold on, they went and got a refund shortly afterwards. How dare they do such a thing, that’s… that’s just plain unfair.

*Sigh*

If only I could hold down a regular 9-5 office job.

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About the Author: Living in England, Surrey and about to break the 33-years old barrier.  I can honestly say that coming to terms with getting older is worse than puberty.  At 14 every extra hair was greeted with rapturous applause and a desire to show it off at school.  Every time a small breeze blew I would worry that it was going to blow away.

These days whenever I spot a new nasal hair I can hear it laughing at me.  I even have to make use of electronic devices to prune it back.

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Blog – http://michaelcargill.wordpress.com/

Twitter – @MichaelCargill1   Facebook

The Books…

Author Page on Goodreads

 Trailer for Underneath  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUBrxs38Dkc

Smashwords

UK Amazon

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.

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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)

IAM Cover Reveal…Outlanders by Mel Cusick-Jones

OUTLANDERS - Cover

Outlanders by Melanie Cusick-Jones

Due for release in late 2013, Outlanders is the third novel from The Ambrosia Sequence. 

I’m really excited to share – for the VERY FIRST TIME – the cover and synopsis for Outlanders…And to be doing this as the first feature of Indie Author Month 2013 is even better! This book has been coming for a long while, as I’ve written a lot of it alongside The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, and been planning the final two books in the Ambrosia Sequence so that everything fits together.

To be so close to releasing this has been a big step forward for me, and I did commit to 2013 being a ‘writing’ year and less of a ‘reading and blogging’ one – because everything takes time and I needed to focus on the writing if I ever want to be finished!

Well, I’ll let you take a look at the synopsis now – there’s also a brand new book trailer for Outlanders that you might want to check out:

YOUTUBE – http://youtu.be/_BL61bUWng8

And now, I need to get back to writing 🙂
Mel x

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OUTLANDERS 

Life on the Space Station Hope was simple: grow up, fall in love and die — quickly. But life does not always do what you expect.

Escaping to Earth was supposed to be a new beginning for Cassie and Balik, but when their craft is shot-down Cassie finds herself alone in the ruins of the former United Kingdom, known colloquially now as The Island.

Whilst Islanders live by the rules of the government, some people choose to exist outside government control, fending for themselves: Outlanders. Badly injured in the crash, Cassie is taken in and protected by an Outlander group, despite their suspicions about this mysterious stranger. And on The Island, you do need protection, because the government military is not the worse thing out there… Goblins are the outcasts no one wanted: the people with no skills to make them productive Islanders, or the criminals who had once been punished as part of the old society. Now they govern themselves and the only principles they respect are violence and power.

In this harsh new world Cassie realises that her fight for survival on the SS Hope was just the beginning. The choices she has to make now will challenge her ability to weigh survival against humanity, and balance life over love.

Preview samples and more info available at http://cusick-jones.com

Remember…you could win an ARC of  Outlanders in the event giveaway, as well as the first books in the series: Hope’s Daughter and The Rainbow Maker’s Tale, so make sure you’ve entered to win! Follow us on Facebook / Twitter and get vocal on the Indie Author Event comments to earn yourself additional entry points 🙂 

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 Gimme 10 – Author Mini-Interview

Please answer each question in 10 words or less – that’s what makes it tough but fun! 🙂

Where do you find your inspiration? All types of people, books, life, films, family and love.

What is your favourite aspect of The Rainbow Maker’s TaleI love seeing things from Balik’s POV

Who is your favourite character from The Rainbow Maker’s Tale and why? It has to be Balik (this time) it’s his turn

What are you working on now? Finalising the Rainbow Maker’s Tale for the summer release and then working on Outlanders, which is Book 3 in the series.

What do you love about most about writing? Solving character’s problems – the freedom to go wherever you want

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About the Author

Melanie is one of the main bloggers for Aside from Writing, and set up the blog in early 2012.

 After graduating from The University of Sheffield with an English Literature Masters in 2003, Melanie has been writing fiction – time permitting – ever since.

The Ambrosia Sequence (started in 2008) and The Elementals (begun in 2004) are both ongoing, extended projects each containing several novels, aimed primarily at young adults and hover somewhere in the middle of sci-fi, futuristic and fantasy genres. Hope’s Daughter, released in December 2011, was her debut novel and the first of The Ambrosia Sequence, with the sequel – Outlanders – due in late 2013.

When she’s not writing Melanie enjoys the wet weather of the north of England with her dog or disappearing into a book for a few hours (no surprise there then). Unfortunately, all too often the ‘day job’ gets in the way of the nicer things in life!

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Find the author:

Website – http://cusick-jones.com

Blog – http://melcj.wordpress.com and Aside from Writing!

Facebook – Hope’s Daughter and Mel Cusick-Jones

Twitter @melabupa

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).

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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…Is Katniss Really Better than Bella?

Following the popularity of her last post with us: A Letter to Stephen King; author Georgina Morales is back again looking at feminism in contemporary literature – particularly the books aimed at young women and girls. She’s asking Is Katniss Really Better than Bella?

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You see it everywhere; there are pictures in Facebook, reviews in Goodreads, punch lines with pictures in Pinterest. It seems like Twilight is at the butt of every joke. Edward Cullen’s sparkling, lean, loving machine has made every hardcore vampire lover retort in hatred. The pathetically insecure Bella Swan hasn’t fared much better. Her image has come to equate everything the Feminist Movement fights against.

Then came The Hunger Games movie and craziness ensued once again. Though the books were widely popular way before the movie broke out, the simple knowledge that a movie was about to be made drove thousands of new fans to the saga. Soon comparisons arouse and Katniss Everdeen became the antithesis of Bella Swan, therefore, the character that defined Feminism for the present generation.

Now, I have a bone to pick with this. I get why Bella is such a nightmare for many women. She is whinny, insecure, and unable to stand for herself. I’m an unapologetic fan of the Twilight books and even I wanted to choke her sometimes.

But let’s check Katniss’ character through The Hunger Games Saga:

  • She is the sole provider of her family in a post-apocalyptic world where you need to fight for every morsel of food. A point for her.
  • She knows how to handle a weapon and isn’t afraid to do it. Two points for her.
  • She, unknowingly, becomes the symbol of rebellion; yet, she fights hard to show the world she is, in fact, in favor of keeping the status quo. Mmm… Not so sure about this one.
  • She is not interested in having a boyfriend, first because she doesn’t want to have a family in that messed up world, and second because she isn’t sure if she would pick her best friend or the boy who saved her life. Again, not so sure this has anything to do with ‘Girl Power’.
  • Finally, it becomes clear there’s no way to stop the rebellion. Does she embrace it and volunteers to fight for a better world? No. In fact, she lets everyone use her image the way they please while she becomes a puppet in the power struggle that ensues. This is definitively not fortitude of character. As a matter of fact, Katniss spends half of the saga breaking to pieces and most of the third book literally hiding in a closet. I fail to see how this is any better than Bella’s obsession with her boyfriend.

The sort answer is: It isn’t. Feminism is a movement designed to empower women, to bring recognition to the value of women in our society and to fight for the right each one of us have to take control of our lives. Whether we choose to embark on a career in the world of finance or to dedicate ourselves to the education of our children, Feminism is the reason why we even have the option.

The problem is getting married and tending a home was the only career path available to us back in the days, therefore it is seen with shoddy eyes when a modern gal openly acknowledges her desire to do so. We look for specific traits in our females in order to select them as our new standard of ‘Girl Power’ like physical strength and open disdain (or disinterest) for men.

Katniss is both, lethal and uninterested in boys, but is she truly the encarnation of empowerment? I don’t think so.

Let me tell you, it was hard for me to come across a female character in modern literature that met my idea of Feminism, which is very sad and goes to show you why is it that our teen girls hold so hard to the few outstanding female characters they have available, however faulted these might be. But I finally found it: Hermione Granger.

Think for a moment. She is intelligent, determined, strong, and she might not be able to take a life with her magic wand, but she is powerful nonetheless. She is so, not because of how many magic spells she knows, but because she knows what she wants, what is good for her, where her weaknesses are, and she has a great moral compass. All these traits make her, in fact, a much better symbol of Feminism; a role model for our youth they can actually hope to become.

When we decide to bash a fictional character such as Bella Swan because of its interest in having a boyfriend, we are sending the message that worrying about boys is a sign of times past and a weakness. When we sing praises to characters like Katniss Everdeen for her physical strength we tell our teen girls that this one trait is so positive, it actually compensates the clear shortcomings the character shows in other areas.

Do you think I am being ridiculous? Giving way too much importance to fake and clearly fantastic novels? Well, yes! And therein lies our main trouble. We read too much between the lines. Teenage girls will worry about boys, that’s just how it is, very few of them are the actual providers of their household, and even fewer know how to shoot a gun, forget about a bow. Let’s not make the mistake of confusing physical prowess with strength of character. They like Bella? Sure, why not. Then, show them a book where the female character is worthy of being emulated and talk about it. That will take you a lot farther that trashing the latest fad. Communication is the ultimate influence to empower our youth and help them travel the murky waters of adolescence and external influences; it is the final weapon that trumps even books and that’ll make of our kids true Feminists.

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More thoughts on this topic? Check out the links below!

Katniss v Bella on The Huffington Post

Katniss v Bella – A Feminist Analysis (You Tube)

Cage Fight – Katniss v Bella

Girls Night In – With Bella, Buffy, Katniss and Hermione

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About the Author 

Born in Mexico City, Georgina was always divided between the world of the paranormal, the religious, and science, even as a kid. Through her years in medical school, she experienced and heard all kinds of creepy tales. She, now, writes from her home in Norwalk, Ct. where she resides in the company of her husband and two young daughters. The history of the northeast, its old buildings, and its endless forests provide her imagination with a constant influx of ideas, which combined with her rich background make for her unique style. She’s also a staff reviewer for Dark River Press.

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

www.diaryofawriterinprogress.blogspot.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Perpetual-Night-by-Georgina-Morales/159894374059399

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4646361.Georgina_Morales

http://www.darkriverpress.com/reviews.html

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/perpetual-night-georgina-morales/1100075745?ean=9780615438405&itm=1&usri=georgina+morales

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=georgina+morales&x=0&y=0

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38400

Interview with…Author Tony Talbot

 Blog regular Tony Talbot’s latest book, Eight Mile Island, was released recently and to support its launch, we have a special author interview with Tony today, to help you learn a little bit more about him and his writing! 

Here’s Tony!

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1. You have invented an operational time machine, where would you go?

I’d go back into the past…maybe 17th century Vienna, and see a Mozart or Beethoven symphony performed for the first time.

2. If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose?

Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Ernest Shackleton and Ada Lovelace. I realise I have four men and one woman in that list!

3. You are stranded on a desert island; what three things would you want to have with you?

The Idiots guide to surviving on a desert island

A satellite phone with 4G Internet

Kelly Brook!

4. What is one book everyone should read?

Ooo…tricky. To Kill a Mockingbird.

5. If you could have any superpower what would you choose?

Flight, every time. Imagine the time I’d save at the airport.

6. What is your favourite flavor of ice cream?

Chocolate.

7. If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?

There’s an Antarctic explorer I’m fascinated with, Apsley Cherry-Garrard. I’d love to pick his brains about Antarctica.

8. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?

Leftover trifle.

9. Night owl, or early bird?

Neither! Mid morning from 11:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon.

10. Pet Peeves?

Driving while on the phone.

11. Do you have any other books in development at the moment? What are your goals for future projects? 

I started the first chapter of book five about the same time as I was finally wrapping up Eight Mile Island. I’d love to do a trilogy one day, but new ideas always pop into my head and I’m off on to something new.

12. Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

I had a reviewer for my first book – Over the Mountain –  say it made them cry…since it is a very sad and serious book, mission accomplished.

13. What’s your favourite season/weather?

I love autumn. The colours are just amazing, and there’s more of a sense that a day with good weather is something you should get outside and enjoy.

14. If you could jump inside the pages of a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?

It would have to be the Harry Potter universe. Wouldn’t a tour of Hogwarts or Diagon Alley be something else?

15. What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I loved Bedknob and Broomstick by Mary Norton. I read it and re-read it time and time again, and it’s one of the reasons I love reading and writing. It soaked into me.

16. Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

All of them have parts of me, and all of them have attributes I wish I had…more bravery, more street smarts. I have to say most of them are smarter than I am!

17. Can you write a Haiku about your book?

very creepy location

from which there is no escape

visit eight mile island

18. What is your favourite quote from a movie?

“Now….bring me that horizon.” Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

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You can enter to win your very own copy of Eight Mile Island for Kindle / PDF in our giveaway!

**CLICK HERE**

Welcome to Eight Mile Island. 

Dylan James is used to boarding schools. He’s been thrown out of so many in the past two years, he’s lost count. So when an elite academy in Oregon offers him a place, he doesn’t think he’ll be there more than a week.
 
But Eight Mile Island isn’t like anywhere Dylan has been before. In the dense forests around the school, there are things that look human but aren’t.
 
Things that are hungry, and waiting.
 
But that’s just the start of the mysteries, mysteries that mean Dylan may never escape. Even if he wants to…

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Want to know more? Check out the links!

Website: http://www.tony-talbot.co.uk

Twitter: @authortony

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tonytalbotwriter

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/tony-talbot