Young Sentinels Update and Chapter Three.

SnoopyGood news for everyone who has been impatiently waiting; I have this week finished my first draft of Young Sentinels! Since I tend to rewrite as I write, I do not anticipate many changes between now and the final draft, which means that a release date in August is not unthinkable. I apologize to everyone who has been impatiently waiting.

None more so than I. Sometimes I’ve felt like Snoopy–blocked beyond those first few glorious lines–and now that YS is substantially complete I am revisiting my writing method. There must be a better way to do this, and I need to be more professional about it.

Since we’re looking at another month till publication, as an apology I bring you Chapter Three. For me it was one of the “vision” chapters, setting up not one but two character arcs, and it was fun to write since it gave me my first chance to show Astra from an outside point of view. If you haven’t read Chapters 1 and 2 already, go here.8PointStar01-33

Chapter Three

“Life is unfair. I know that. Born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I have a dead older sister I was too young to remember, childhood cancer I remember too well—seventh grade was not fun—lost my BFF to terminal stupidity… But my breakthrough was a good thing. I was able to use it to save people. I got cool, helpful powers. The public loved me, mostly. Lots of breakthroughs aren’t so lucky.”

Astra, Notes From A Life.


“It happens more often than you think.”

Blackstone looked old—well, older. Thanks to iron discipline and Chakra’s help (a regimen of aerobic exercise and tantric magic, don’t ask) the white haired old magician and ex-marine could run a marathon and hold his own in mixed martial arts, but his age showed when he was tired. Or sad. Like the night in the chapel when he’d held me while I cried like a child.

I’d dropped Malcolm Scott in the infirmary for the Dr. Beth Treatment; just a look at his head and foot and a physical—our team doctor wasn’t asking for any power demonstrations yet. Now Blackstone, Chakra, and I sat in Blackstone’s office and watched Dr. Beth run him through his tests. Early news footage of the accident scene—the smashed bus and the ring of emergency vehicles—filled a second screen and showed glimpses of Watchman and Seven, who Lei Zi had sent over to the school. Hersey High. The rest of the field team remained out at the airport.

On Dr. Beth’s table, the kid had taken off his scraped and soiled varsity jacket. Average looks, brown hair, brown eyes. He was pretty big, overweight but in a fit way, decent muscles under the fat. I guessed linebacker or wrestler.

Chakra looked up from the screens, brow furrowed. “What happens more often?”

“Deadly breakthroughs.” Blackstone sat back and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Many breakthroughs come from trauma inflicted by other people, and the reaction is often extreme. Look at Safire—a nice enough stripper going to business school until her abusive boyfriend nearly beat her to death and she broke through as a B Class Atlas-type. She killed him with one punch before she knew what she could do.”

“Jamal—” I said before I could stop myself. I’d stripped off my filthy mask and wig and washed my face, but hadn’t changed before quietly joining them.

He nodded. “Crash, indeed. Fortunately you and Rush stopped him from doing anything unforgivably permanent to the young gangstas who attacked him.”

Chakra watched Dr. Beth poke and prod our new problem. “Poor kid,” she said, echoing my own not happy inside-voice. “What will happen to him now?”

“Legally? Nothing. Sometimes it’s hard to prove whether a breakthrough-related death was intentional or not, but in this case the death of the bus driver was clearly accidental. Mentally?”

Oh yeah. This was going to mess up the kid’s head in so many ways. I must have given something away; ever-alert, Blackstone looked up at me, a bit of the twinkle back in his eye.

“Could you take this one, my dear? Young Mr. Scott’s parents are on their way, but Dr. Beth will be done with his poking and prodding soon, and we don’t want the boy left alone too long. Heaven knows, he could work himself back up and start blowing holes in the Dome. And Chakra and I are rather…fragile.”

I opened my mouth to protest, closed it as Blackstone’s point sank in. How sensitive was the kid’s trigger? Would any normal person who upset him now end up drippy paste on pieces of wall? Dr. Beth was insane just being in the same room with the unexploded boy without knowing what could set him off.

Jeez, calm down, he hasn’t blown anyone else up yet. Shelly wasn’t in my head anymore, but I could still hear her sarcastic response.

I nodded, wishing Seven were here. “Okay. How long have I got?”

Blackstone focused on the screen, where Doctor Beth had the boy’s shirt off. “I would guess you have perhaps ten more minutes before the good doctor is finished.”

And Dr. Beth’s friendly talk could calm anybody down, giving me just enough time to change. I ran.

Want to hear all about him?” Shelly whispered in my ear as soon as the door closed behind me. I didn’t answer until I was safe in the elevator.

Tell me you didn’t hack the school’s student files.”

Hey, it’s a good cause.”

“No, it’s not. It’s curiosity and we’ll know soon enough the legal way. We’ve talked about this.” Boy had we ever, and she wasn’t listening and one of these days…

I wanted to bang my head against the wall, but even Dome elevators could be fragile. Hindsight is always perfect; you’ve had time to think about the decisions you made, maybe more information than you had then, enough time for horrible realizations.

The night of the omega operation, I’d asked Shell to hack a military system, to redirect a missile, and now the US military knew that someone could dance through their most vital defense systems and play with their hardware—which made her a Threat To National Security. To make it worse, she wasn’t a person, not legally. If she kept exposing herself, if they traced the hack to her…even if the ACLU had three cases of Verne-science augmented animals and one unique car working their ways through the federal courts, Shell had no rights.

Some nights I woke up in cold sweats from a nightmare that they’d come to take her away and there was nothing I could do about it but go full supervillain. It was my fault, and I had to fix it.

One problem at a time.

“Later, Shell. Now I have to go poke a boy and see if he explodes.”

Bang! 1

The doc gave me a lollypop and an epad displaying directions, and nudged me out the door. Which was really weird, cutting me loose in the middle of Sentinel central. I just followed the map, trying not to think too much; the parentals would be here soon and Mom would be freaking out. No idea what Dad would be doing—he’d hated the wrestling thing since it “distracted” from my studying to make something of myself. What he’d think about this… I ran fingers through my hair, winced at the goose-egg the doc had promised wasn’t a concussion.

Testing the ankle brace the doc had fitted me with, I limped back past Laconic Bob in the lobby. He’d said four words when Astra introduced us, two were my name, and he didn’t add to them now. Turning a corner, I went through a door and walked onto a movie set.

Okay, not a movie set—but I’d seen it in The Sentinels I, II, III, IV, and V. I’d been directed to the Assembly Room. Huge oak table, check. Sentinels ‘S’ engraved above their motto—“We stand ready. in fancy Latin—check. Huge screens, ceiling-mounted projectors, check. The I Love Me wall full of pictures and news clippings was new, or at least not in the shows. Looking closer, they even had a black-framed cover of Time Magazine’s special Funeral Edition. Right

“Morbid, isn’t it?”

I spun around and nearly tripped as my ankle screamed and heat and pressure shot through me, leaving me lightheaded. The tiny blonde standing behind me smiled.

“You didn’t blow anything up, so that’s good.”

She wore dark blue cargo pants and a tight white athletic shirt with Astra’s star symbol on it in sparkly silver. Platinum blonde hair pulled back in a short ponytail framed a freshly scrubbed face. I went cold, like I’d fallen in ice water.

“Are you freaking crazy? I could have—”

“Gone off? I know.” She hopped up to dangle her legs off the edge of the conference table. “That’s why I’m here—I’m tougher than a bus. How’s the bump?”

“You’re tougher—wait—you’re Astra?” Her smile widened while I tried to make it work in my head. I hadn’t believed the tabloids, but she couldn’t be legal, let alone a full-on superhero; Tiffany had more going on under her shirt than she did, and… Sure, stare at her chest, moron—great way to make an impression.

She actually laughed, and my face burned.

“My bust is mostly in my costumes,” she said with an easy shrug. “For superheroes there’s a certain look that’s expected…and wow is this conversation familiar. FYI, I turned nineteen last spring, which makes me totally the opposite of jailbait.”

The burn deepened. “Shit— I mean, sorry…”

She actually looked sympathetic, not disgusted like she smelled dog crap on my shoe or something, and that just made it worse. She wasn’t supermodel-stunning or anything, but she was cute and confidant, the kind of girl who wouldn’t have given me a second look last year.

When I didn’t add to my stupid she waved it away. “Moving on, may I call you Mal?” Her easy smile disappeared and she looked older, all the teasing gone. “We need to talk. About your accident.”


Five minutes later I wanted to kill myself.

She’d sat me down and sunk into a chair beside me, tucked her sneakered feet up, and walked me back through the steps that led to my launching screaming into the sky. The smashed bus. The blood.

 “The driver, he’s…”

“Dead.” She watched me carefully, eyes wet but steady. “He probably didn’t even have time to realize what happened.”

The hot pressure was back, swelling beneath my skin. I couldn’t breathe. “I think, I think I’m going to be sick.” Instead of recoiling, she scooted forward and put a hand on my knee.

“Nothing— Nothing I say right now is going to help,” she said earnestly. “But your breakthrough saved you, protected you, and you didn’t mean to hurt him. It was a thing, it’s awful, it happens sometimes, and it’s absolutely not your fault.”

“The hell it’s not!” I was on fire.

Her grip tightened, a soft vise. “No, it’s not. But it’s a debt. You owe a life, so save a life. It won’t make up for it, but we all have debts we can’t repay.”

“Save who?”

“Start with yourself and work outward.” Letting go, she sat back but kept her eyes on me. “So, are you going to…” She mimed an explosion.

I realized what she’d done and almost hurled for real. “You just tried to, to—”

“Twice,” she agreed. “I meant to sneak up on you, too. Did you know your body temperature spiked both times?” Her smile came back, tentatively. “So I’m pretty sure you’re safe to stand next to, at least while you’re here. And we’ll help you figure it out so what happened today won’t happen again. Promise.”

20 thoughts on “Young Sentinels Update and Chapter Three.

  1. Astra is so great. I love her taking such a deliberate and smart, yet compassionate role here – I totally think she’s going to be the next superhero leader, and I can’t wait to see it!

    Good to hear about finishing the draft! Will it be available for preorder, or should I just keep checking back here?

  2. This looks excellent!

    I do have a question, because I may have missed a staff meeting. When does this take place? Before Villains, Inc.? Because Shelly is still a voice in Hope’s ear, and I’m a little confuzzled. Also, was that missile thing conceived of when Villains, Inc. was written, or is that a bit of a retcon?

    1. Young Sentinels takes place after Villains Inc. and Omega Night (a 5,000-word short story available on ebook through Amazon). Shelly is still a voice in Hope’s ear through their regular Dispatch link, but she is no longer a phantom-voice (or visual hallucination) in her head.

  3. Wow, no explosions or super heroics in this chapter but I LOVED Astra. Her self confidence and the way she handled Mal were beautifully written. I really can’t wait to get my hands on the new book.

  4. I loved the way she treated him the way she was treated when she was first brought in. You can almost hear the echoes of Atlas in the scene.

  5. Another awesome chapter! can’t wait for the for the full novel to be released! I find it intriguing that we will have chapters from Mal’s perspective, I take it will continue throughout the rest of the book? also it was nice to sort of see a kind of role reversal for Astra, where she was in a similar situation in the 1st book with Atlas and being the reassuree then verse the reassuring one this time around 🙂

      1. Glad to hear it! 🙂 I do have a question though, I’ve just gone back and re-read the previous two books and I was wondering what the specific differences between an Atlas type and an Ajax type were? From what you wrote I took it to be that Ajax types were just super strong and durable ala Ajax, Hercules and numerous other Greek hero archetypes, while Atlas types were more of a Superman archetype with the same elements of the Ajax type but with levitation/flight abilities and enhanced senses as well. I was just wondering if I was correct in that assessment as you’ve never exactly specified thus far?

      2. You are, in fact, correct. Merely superstrong/tough breakthroughs are referred to as Ajax Types, even metamorphing superstrong breakthroughs like Iron Jack.

  6. Mr. Harmon, let me just say, I love your characters and stories. I first read Bite Me and then followed that with borrowing Wearing the Cape through my Amazon Prime membership. I then bought Villians Inc. because I really liked your previous stories. I just finished my second read through of your books – this time in chronological order. I came to your blog to see if there was a way I could contact you directly, but finding none, I will leave my honest review as a comment here.

    I have a brother who has recently joined the ranks of self-published authors and I was privileged to be among his alpha readers and supply early feedback of his writing. I guess it’s gotten me in the mode of ‘critique what I read’, so take it or leave it – my guess is you’ll leave it, cause, seriously, why listen to me, a person you don’t know? – but I just can’t help it. I want your writing to get good enough that one day I can find your books at the local library.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your books, but there were a small handful of things that consistently pulled me out of the world you created, particularly during my second read through. Your use of acronyms, capital letters, parentheses and occasional lack of distinct voice between characters are what would regularly take me from complete emersion in the story to paying attention to the actual words on the page.

    Acronyms are great and they are a large part of today’s world with texting, tweeting, facebook, etc but they don’t necessarily belong in a fictional story to the extent that you use them. Typing the complete word doesn’t take that much time and wouldn’t likely add any more pages to your printed books. Using acronyms in dialogue is different from using them in non-dialogue parts. I feel that if a person would actually say the acronym, such as “BFF”, then use it, but when describing things, you should use the whole word. Orb is described as “a top-shelf Hollywood PI”, but you never say what a “PI” is. I’m assuming it’s a private investigator, but that’s never directly stated. Another example of pulling me from the story, is the text that Astra receives from Dane after he proposes to Annabeth, “AB sd ys!” While I understand that the text would have probably looked just like that, I feel that if you’d written the whole sentence out, it would have read much more smoothly. TA, DA, FYI, BFF, CAI – after a while they all started running together.

    Your use of capitalizing random words in your writing really threw me for a while. I assume that you use the capital to emphasize the phrase or words in the sentence, but it comes across as juvenile. Here’s a sentence from chapter one of Young Sentinels: “Sirens began wailing; an airport – a place where things happened at high speeds and lots of fuel lay around just waiting for bad stuff to happen – came equipped for disaster and able to let the whole wide field know to Head For Cover.” Why do you need to capitalize, “head for cover”? It doesn’t follow any of the general rules for capitalization – proper noun, name or first word of the sentence. This is a fairly common practice in your writing. I’d gotten so used to seeing it in your writing that when I was reading your sneak peek of Young Sentinels, I got confused when Rush refers to “Dam Number One” during the forest attack.

    Parentheses are another thing that is not usually used in written fiction – the dash is more commonly used. My first read through Wearing the Cape, I was completely confused as to who “the Bees” were and why they were called that. When I reread it, I paid attention so I could finally understand. “Julie’s family lived in our parish, and after Shelly’s funeral she’d ruthlessly dragged me into her circle, which until then had only included Annabeth and Megan. Together since middle school, the Bees (Brennan, Bauman, and Brock) had reigned…” Forget the parentheses and just type their full names out all together. I’ve noticed with my own writing and when reading online that parentheses tend to get used more to throw in a thought that otherwise doesn’t flow with the rest of the paragraph. It’s a thought that may or may not be important but you don’t know how to fit it in, so parentheses are used. I am super guilty of doing this when writing a post on Facebook or typing up an email. I’ve even had to rework several sentences in this essay I’m writing to you just so I won’t use any. Because they typically aren’t used often in published fiction, your more frequent use really stuck out for me.

    My final hiccup is the occasional lack of distinction between character voices. Again, this is something that I didn’t really pick up on the first time I read through them. I think it might be in part because I read Bite Me first, and then Astra’s stories the first time through. I loved Jacky as a character. I love the idea of a vampire that hates being a vampire and her attitude toward others of her kind. Jacky is my favorite character and in Wearing the Cape, you establish pretty well that Astra and Jacky are about as different as two friends could be. So, when Jacky uses the word ‘yummy’ to describe Marc Leroy – “With his whip-thin, hard-muscled physique, he didn’t need any decorations to look yummy. Yummy and bored and dismissive, like tonight.” – it really made me feel like that was Astra talking and not Jacky. Astra uses that descriptive word to describe Atlas twice in Wearing the Cape and there are so many more words out there to describe a good looking man than that. Another example of Astra-like words is Malcolm Scott referring to his parents as “the parentals” in chapter three of Young Sentinels. “I just followed the map, trying not to think too much; the parentals would be here soon and Mom would be freaking out.” It came across to me as a very Astra-like thought for Malcolm to think of his parents not as most people would as ‘my parents’, but as ‘the parentals’.

    I know after reading my critiques that I probably don’t sound like much of a fan, but let me just say, I really love your stories. I read Bite Me for the first time just six weeks ago and within a week had read all three of your novels. I have five kids and my oldest is eight. The fact that I’ve reread your novels in such a short time, hopefully shows you how much I like your work and hope to see you continue writing and succeeding as a writer. I love Astra and Jacky and the rest and hope to continue to read their stories and other stories from you in future. If you’ve actually read this far, thank you for reading my brain-dump. My husband thought I was nuts to do this and I kind of agree with him. I hope you didn’t find me too impertinent.

    1. Thank you for letting me know how much you enjoyed my stories, and thank you for your edit-notes–I went in and spaced your paragraphs so other readers could follow them more easily. You made some excellent points from your reading of the first chapters, which I very much appreciate. Not having a traditional writer/editor publishing model, I take editorial criticism wherever I can find it. I would love to see your reviews on (general, not textual), but I do have one question for you here. You are the first reader I have heard from who admits to beginning with Bite Me; as someone who came in on the vampire story first, how easy was it for you to understand Jacky’s situation and the nuances of her world? Were there questions that bothered you until you read the others, or was the sketched background supplied in Bite Me sufficient? Just curious.

      1. I also started with bite me and had a little bit of trouble discerning what type of world Jacky was in, but it didn’t really throw me off (just a little bit). It was a little annoying though.

  7. I’ve fallen in love with your books ever since I bought Wearing the Cape six months ago. The moment I finished it I looked for more and found Villians Inc., Bite Me and Omega Night. I devoured them. It’s so hard to find a good superhero novel these days. But you manage to make it feel so realistic that it’s impossible to not get sucked in. I’m very interested in Malcolm. I’m dying for Young Sentinels to come out!

    1. Yes, probably next weekend. It’s in the final editing stage now, and after that the formatting takes only a couple of days. My goal is to have an announcement up next week.

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