Hi guys! We have J.K. Pendragon stopping by today with their new release Junior Hero Blues, we have a great guest post from J.K., a brilliant excerpt and we also have a fantastic giveaway. So guys, check out the post and then leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤ ~Pixie~
Junior Hero Blues
Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he’s . . . well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.
But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It’s hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of schoolwork and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who’s way out of Javier’s league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.
Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.
Writing Teenaged Characters
I’m getting old.
Not actually. I’m twenty-five. But at my day job we’re always hiring new cashiers, and a lot of them are sixteen, or even fifteen sometimes. Part of me feels like they keep getting younger and younger (nope, I’m just getting older.) Like, how can you have been born in the year 2001 and be standing in front of me forming full sentences and working at a job??
But then other times, I forget entirely how young they are. They’re just coworkers, friends people like me, with the same habits and feelings and personalities as any of my adult coworkers. When I remember that they’re actually a teenager, and think about how young I was at that age, how completely un-formed my personality was, it blows my mind that they can seem so self-assured and mature.
And that maturity is something I really wanted to keep in mind when writing teenage characters. I don’t think teenagers are immature. I think, mostly, they’re just inexperienced. It takes time to figure yourself out, to learn how to interact with others, and to figure out what they best responses to situations are. Teenagers are learning to navigate life as an adult, with only their experiences as a child to guide them. That’s gotta be pretty tough. Plus teenagers are very aware of the fact that they’re teenagers, and they often realise that they’re being immature, and stereotypically teenager-like, even when they don’t know what to do about it. The completely non-self-aware teenager who never stops to second guess their actions or the feelings of others is a trope I wanted to stay far, far away from.
Mostly though, I’m just continuously impressed by how intelligent and knowledgeable teenagers are these days. People are always complaining about the youths these days, but honestly I feel like the future is in good hands. Junior Hero Blues is my love letter to the amazing teenagers in my life. Javier knows that life is going to get better for him, and I hope so do you.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to leave a comment with your name and email address for a chance to win one of three Amazon gift cards!
When I woke up, my mask was lying beside me on the ground, and I felt like my entire head had been squeezed like a pimple.
It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, and by the time I realized that the Raven was there with me, she was putting my mask back over my eyes and checking my vitals. Masks have a way of obscuring expressions, but I could see that her jaw was tight and her lips were even thinner than usual.
“What happened?” I groaned, my voice raspy. I was starting to get memories back, of the smoke and explosions of the battle, and of him. That bastard smashing my head into a mirror—I raised a hand to my forehead and felt crusted blood through my glove—and then of us fighting, and of a rather unheroic rage that had come over me as we did so. The last thing I remembered was my hands on either side of his head, shooting sonic waves into his ears so hard that his eyes were rolling back, and his big meaty hands around my neck, squeezing me into darkness.
“Don’t know.” The Raven’s ambiguously Slavic accent was harsher than normal. “I found you here, with your mask off. Who did it, do you know?”
“Yeah.” I coughed. “Who do you think? Jimmy Black.”
* * * * * * *
I guess I should back up a bit. Jimmy Black was my sworn enemy, if you go for dramatics like that (I totally do), and I’d met him a few months before, when all this crap with the Organization started. I’d been on a date with Rick Rykov. My first date. Ever, that is, and I was pretty convinced that the whole thing was a setup to make fun of me, because that would just be typical. But then Rick actually showed up at the café and we sat there for twenty minutes drinking coffee and discussing our lives like regular people, and there was absolutely no sign of the whole thing being a prank or some plan concocted by him and his friends to humiliate me.
I mean, aside from being gay, Rick was, like, standard bully material. He was a football player, even—six feet of lean teenage muscle and popularity. And I have a theory that being gay in high school just pushes your social standing to an extreme either way. Like, if you’re already popular and then you come out as gay, you become like this amazing, brave individual who inspires change (exhibit A: Rick Rykov). But if you come out as gay, and you’re that weird little Spanish dude who came to America in first grade and couldn’t speak any English, who decided to compensate for that fact by eating a bug in front of his entire class, which was never forgotten, ever, by anyone . . .
Well, see exhibit B: Javier Medina (that’s me, by the way). Skinny, brown, nerdy. I’m sure you can picture it. That, combined with my family not exactly being wealthy, meant I got picked on a lot in school, even before the bug thing, so I’m a little skittish. Or possibly a lot skittish. You decide.
So anyway, naturally, considering my rather extensive history with bullies, when a super hot, super popular football player came striding down the hall toward me after class one day, my first instinct was to run away. Unfortunately, Kendall (who apparently has superhearing that I don’t know about) had overheard that Rick was planning on asking me out, and grabbed my arm to keep me from escaping. She’s pretty heavyset, and I guess she was using her weight to her advantage, because I was basically rooted to the spot despite having, you know, moderate superstrength.
So then Rick strolled up, cool as you please, and introduced himself. Like, he full-on shook my hand. As if it was a job interview. And then he asked me out, and I was thinking that I might be stupid enough to eat a bug, but I sure as hell wasn’t stupid enough to think that Rick Rykov was actually asking me out on a date. So I told him to eff off.
Yeah right. I actually said something along the lines of, “Uhhhh . . . you want to go . . . on a date? With me? Wh-hyy?”
And he said, “Because I like you. I think you’re cute, so I thought we could get to know each other a bit better, over coffee.”
At this point I was basically giving myself whiplash looking around trying to see if I was in the process of being ambushed with the eventual intent to stick my head in the toilet. And then I got kind of angry because, like, here I was, busting my butt every single day to save people’s lives and keep the public safe—screw putting up with this high school bullying crap.
So I decided I would go out with Rick, and if he or any of his buff football friends decided to try to pull one over me, I was just going to spontaneously snap and beat the crap out of them (or at least use my powers to pull some fun tricks with them) and plead temporary insanity to Captain Justice after the fact.
Rick seemed pleased, and a little surprised that I’d agreed. We set a date, and I went in fully expecting to be doused with whipped cream, or laughed and jeered at, or at the very least stood up.
But Rick was there, leaning back in one of the little spindly café chairs that looked like it might break under his weight, and sipping some frothy drink. When I sat down, he shook my hand again, and then we just sort of . . . started talking.
Which I know isn’t a big deal, because, like, people talk all the time. But not me. I mean, I talk to Kendall, because she’s my best friend and has been forever and we tell each other everything. I talk to my parents, in Spanish mostly, which is still a bit easier for me, funnily enough (although I’m sure you can tell I have an absolutely superb grasp of the English language). But with everyone else? It’s kind of like the fewer syllables I can use, the better. I mumble my way through life. I just can’t make myself say what I’m thinking most of the time.
So yeah, it was pleasantly surprising to be able to talk to Rick. He asked me questions, and waited patiently while I answered them, and then offered information about himself. He lived with his parents in a really nice part of town, although pretty close to me, and had a sister and a cat. And I told him, a bit defensively, that I lived with my parents in a crappy little apartment that didn’t allow pets, and that my dad worked on computers and my mom worked at a gas station so we could have a little extra income. I was all set for Rick to be all judgey or awkward (or worse, feel bad for me) about my poorness, but he didn’t seem to care about that at all. He actually seemed to genuinely want to get to know me.
And then, just when I was starting to relax and believe that this was actually a thing that was happening and I wasn’t going to, you know, die, Rick’s phone rang. He had a sort of awkward conversation and said, looking really let down, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to work. Last-minute thing.” Then his face brightened up a bit. “But we should do this again sometime.”
I agreed, and he went off, and I was left sitting there for about ten minutes finishing my coffee and thinking. And then my phone rang too.
I should have figured it out right then and there.
It was the League dispatch, about as polite as ever, which is to say one step up from a robot. Actually, scratch that, the League AI was way friendlier.
So she was all like, “There’s an incident downtown, not far from your location. Can you respond?”
And I figured why not, since I was pretty pumped at that moment, and anyway, it was my job. Like, I got paid for it and everything. So I told her I’d be there in like two minutes, and grabbed my bag and headed out.
Now, listen up, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret about switching from your civilian clothes into your superhero getup.
The telephone booth thing?
I mean, maybe except for old pros like Captain Justice. I’ve seen him change into his costume so fast it was like he must have been wearing a tear-away outfit, complete with, like, origami cape and boots in his back pocket. But for the rest of us, it’s three-plus minutes of awkwardly hunching on top of a building—try even finding a telephone booth these days—ripping off your clothes and pulling on the parts of your costume that don’t fit under them, and then you have to try to fit everything, including your shoes, into your backpack. And then you have to look for a place to stash your backpack where it won’t be stolen or, like, crapped on by pigeons or something.
And the League really does expect you to respond to a call within like five minutes. I don’t know why they haven’t invented some sort of quick-change technology. Maybe they have, and they just don’t make it available to Junior Heroes.
It’s a complete rip-off being a Junior Hero, by the way. You’re supposed to be only assigned to low-risk stuff, but half the time it’s just as dangerous as anything else anyway, and the rest of the time it’s freaking boring. You don’t get any of the cool gadgets, and there are all these rules . . .
Anyway, I guess I should skip ahead to the action.
I hadn’t really been given any info by dispatch besides that the incident was a jewelry store break-in, and when I arrived, the alarm was going off already, so that meant the police were on their way. But of course by the time they got here, it probably would have been too late. It was up to me to stop the thieves (if they hadn’t already finished up and left in the time it had taken me to find my mask in the bottom of my backpack), so I jumped down outside the glass doorway and warned all the civilians to take cover, before heading on in.
The thieves were still here, but it looked like they were getting ready to leave. My first clue that something was up was the fact that none of them were holding any loot, besides the head guy, and all he had was a briefcase. The second thing was that they weren’t wearing normal robber attire (not that robbers have a uniform but, you know) and instead they were wearing dark-colored skintight suits that looked a lot like League costumes only . . . well, darker. Also, they all had on masks, but not your old-fashioned balaclava-type masks. No, these were molded ones, heavy-duty, doubling-as-face-armor-type masks, like only heroes wear. Well, heroes and villains.
That confirmed my suspicions: these guys were with the Organization. I reached for my watch and subtly tapped the panic button that alerted the League that I needed backup. In the meantime, I knew it was up to me to either stop them, or else stall them until some more powerful League members could arrive and take them out.
All this happened in about five seconds, of course. Basically I walked in, the tinkly bell on the door went off, the guys inside looked at me, and I pressed the button on my watch. And then the guy with the briefcase turned around and distracted me with his junk.
Okay, you have to cut me some slack here, because one, I am a hormonal teenager, and two, it was, like, right there, and, um, big. And it’s not like I’m not used to seeing guys in spandex and/or spandex-like materials, seeing as I belong to the League and everything, but jeez, this guy was really impressive. It was almost obscene.
So at that moment I had about two thoughts in my mind, one of which was Distract them until backup arrives! and the other of which was Holy crap, his bulge, so my first instinct was to distract him by pointing out his penis to him.
I know. Shut up.
“What the hell is that?” I gestured dramatically at his crotch. “That’s not appropriate for children!”
The guy just stared at me, and I’m pretty sure his expression was something like incredulous, although it was hard to tell because, you know, mask. His eyes flickered over me though, and I remembered belatedly that as a superhero in a midriff-baring costume, I was not exactly above the “not appropriate for children” criticism. Also, the way he was looking at me was . . . I don’t know, kind of sexy but in a way that made me feel a bit uncomfortable and squirmy. And angry too.
“Hey!” I said loudly. “I’m talking to you!”
The guy shrugged, seeming a lot more relaxed than his two cronies, and grinned at me. “What’s the problem? I have nothing to hide.”
“Oh yeah?” I flushed under my mask. “Then why are you hiding your face?”
I’m sorry, by the way.
If you went into this thinking that it was a story about one of those epic, always cool heroes with the witty one-liners, who only pretends to be shy and dorky for the sake of his alter ego, you’ve probably realized by now that that is not what you’re getting. I, Javier Medina—or Blue Spark, as I’m known to the citizens of Liberty City—am one-hundred-percent dork, through and through. The mask only makes it worse. So yeah, I apologize. If this isn’t what you’re into, I’d recommend Captain Justice’s autobiography. Not the current Captain Justice, though, I’m pretty sure he’s super boring. But the Captain Justice in the forties was pretty cool and witty. Except that he was kind of a huge raging misogynist. Kendall’s all into the feminist history of superheroes, so I know these things.
What was I talking about? Oh yeah, I was detailing my epic levels of fail.
Well, let’s get on with that, then.
So the guy took a step toward me, and then another. And then he was staring down at me with this dark, evil glint in his eyes, and smiling like a crocodile. “Listen, kid, if you knew what you were dealing with, you’d get the hell out of the way.”
“I know what you are,” I said, pretty bravely in my opinion, considering that the guy was like three times my size. “You’re with the Organization, aren’t you? What’s your name, Evil McBigDick?”
I was stalling here, just so you know. I’m usually a lot more to the point. I think.
Anyway, I must have struck a nerve, because the guy’s smile went away, and he made a little signal to his cronies with his fingers. Then he said, “It’s Jimmy,” and brought his fist up into my stomach, catapulting me into the air and through the glass display window. “Jimmy Black.”
Stupid name for a supervillain, if you ask me.
Read more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/junior-hero-blues (just click the excerpt tab)
J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer-fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing other queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.
After writing in the romance community for several years, Junior Hero Blues is J.K.’s first book for young adults. Having been very positively affected by the queer books they came across as a teen, J.K. hopes their young adult books can have a similar effect on teens who may have a harder time finding books about people like themselves.
Notable works by J.K. Pendragon include Ink & Flowers, a contemporary romance novel with coming out themes, and To Summon Nightmares, a horror-fantasy that follows the journey of a young trans man into a world of magic and danger. To Summon Nightmares is the winner of the 2015 Rainbow Awards’ Best Transgender Fiction award. J.K. also contributed to Less Than Three Press’s Geek Out: A Collection of Trans and Genderqueer Romance.
J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada, with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @JKPendragon.
Connect with J.K.:
- Website: www.jkpendragon.com
- Blog: www.jkpendragon.com/blog
- Twitter: @JKPendragon
- Tumblr: jkpendragon.tumblr.com