Friday, August 25, 2017

Promo: Kingdom of Sand by Josianne Haag (Excerpt + Interview)


KINGDOM of SAND by JOSIANNE HAAG
Synopsis: With a foreign kingdom preparing for war, the princess must betray her people to save them.

Saehan has been training her entire life to be a Queen that will bring her kingdom to greatness. But in one disastrous moment her crown is given to her brother, her plans to start a rebellion in the warring kingdom are crushed, and she has been forced into an arranged marriage. She must decide between accepting the King’s plans for her future or running away to start a rebellion – which would end the war before it even started – with the help of a church acolyte and a carefree soldier.

Buy the Book: Amazon US | Amazon CA


Excerpt: A man stepped out onto the field and the whispers faded away. The Banachi stalked back to his side, throwing his arms up for one last half-hearted cheer from the crowd.
    The man entering the field was in his fifties, his hair silvering and his bared gut hanging below the waist of his pants. From the bulk, he was once a very muscular man, though it had all become fat in his old age. His chest was covered in many wooden necklaces that clanked together as he walked, showing glimpses of the tattoos stretching across his chest. He stopped between the two competitors. Then he smiled, revealing crooked yellow teeth, though remarkably none were missing.
    “Welcome my friends,” he said. “Though times have changed and we have lost some of the old ways, some traditions remain close to our hearts. Thankfully we no longer need to kill a frasgir to bed a wench or I would have been sleeping alone these last thirty years.” He paused to allow the jeering and laughter. “But we have always allowed young men to have their friendly competition. Whether it is our family that has been insulted or our manhood, we are a proud and strong kingdom. Unfortunately, we no longer fight to the death.” He paused to allow the crowd their shouts of disappointment. “However, the loser will be disgraced and lose all social standing. As such, they will forever be made to scrub floors and carry water like a serving maid.”
    Hoots of laughter and cheering accompanied this news.
    “This is ridiculous,” Saehan said. “What if Leofwin loses? He won’t ever be able to train with you again.”
    Alexi waved away her concerns. “He is too good to lose. Be quiet, I need to concentrate.”
    He needed to concentrate? He wasn’t facing a duel that determined his entire future. This couldn’t be legal. Surely the Banachi wouldn’t cast out their strongest heir if the match didn’t go their way. She should march out there and lecture the crowd of the barbarity, of this “tradition”. Most didn’t know that the original tradition was to feast on the defeated warrior the evening of the battle as a celebration. And the winner received the head. This is what they were cheering about. Eating human flesh. Of all the traditions they chose to maintain, this was it.
    As she took a step forward to put an end to all the madness, Alexi grabbed her arm. “You are not stopping this.”
    “I have to. As a member of the royal family it is my duty that the clans conduct in a civilised manner while they reside in the Capitol. If the King knew about this he would-”
    “He does know about it.” Alexi said, sounding pitiful.
    She turned to him, seething. “Of course, he doesn’t.”
    He shook his head, finally giving her his entire concentration. “I went to him as soon as the battle was arranged and he agreed, wholeheartedly.”
    She shook her head. The King must not have understood the proposition correctly. This was not how things were done. “No. No, he wouldn’t.”
    “If you are really concerned about this you can talk to him after. But if you try to end this now you will have a riot on your hands. Not exactly how you want to see your kingdom viewing you if you want to be Queen.”
    A shiver of ice started at the back of her neck and shot down her back. Could he know? What was she thinking? Of course, he wouldn’t. No one did. Until tonight.
    “Besides,” Alexi said, “Leof’s expectin’ ya to be his good luck charm.”
    “I bring no one luck,” she said. She automatically searched for Leofwin and found him staring at her. He inclined his head slightly before returning his focus back to his competitor.
    The announcer prattled on, “Now I must ask that each warrior present his weapon. You will each have one weapon that you can use during this duel. You may not use your opponent’s weapon.”
    “That rule was put in place when a fighter used to hide blades in the dirt of the arena,” Alexi said.
    “I know,” Saehan said, slightly offended that he didn’t think she would be aware of that fact.
    The Banachi pulled out a thin blade that gleamed in the sun. In contrast Leofwin’s sword was dull in shine but its size made up for it. The blade widened further away from the handle, ending in a rounded tip. But the serrated edge was deadly sharp.
    Saehan was distracted by the odd shaped sword so the next thing she knew the announcer backed away, shouting, “Let the battle begin!”
    The Banachi stalked towards Leofwin, his lithe blade held straight up at his chest. Leofwin backed up, his blade loose by his side, simply watching. Why wasn’t he doing anything?
    Alexi watched without comment, his eyes tracking every movement. Saehan’s gaze was pulled back to the duel as the Banachi swung his sword expertly through the air, arms twisting, wind whistling passed the tempered metal.
    Saehan jerked forward and grabbed Alexi’s arm. The Banachi’s sword was inches from Leofwin’s face before the latter finally swung his sword up to deflect it with ease. Leofwin dropped into a battle stance.
    The two warriors immediately began to circle with their bodies angled towards each other. The Banachi moved in quick steps, his sword held pointed at his opponent. His bravado was gone but a smile lingered on his lips. Leofwin walked as though each one was a statement. Each step was deliberate and calculating, and so was the glint in his eye.
    Saehan could not tell who was winning. For a few seconds, they would stand still, looking for weakness, and then their swords would meet, crashing together again and again as they tried to get past each other’s guard. Each stroke looked as though it would bring blood before it was deflected. The screech of metal caused shivers along her spine.
    Already people began to talk and cheer around them, more subdued now that they understood that this duel might take some time. Saehan didn’t spare them a second look. As ludicrous as it seemed, she felt as though if she looked away from the fight for even one moment Leofwin would lose.
    One block had their blades lock together. For a moment, they were held in place, each panting, sweat glistening on their skin. Then they pressed forward from both sides, the edges of their blades grinding. The Banachi was forced to take a few steps back. Leofwin laughed darkly before spinning away with a quick step. As they returned to their circling he took a few jabs towards his opponent as if he were teasing. But there was now a tightness to his movements. He probably thought that this fight would be much easier to win.
    But as the Banachi’s onslaught of attacks continued, Leofwin was forced to back up so he wouldn’t have his head neatly removed from his body.
    “Come on,” Alexi muttered, eyes shining. “Don’t let him back you into a corner.”
    The sweat coating Leofwin’s back gleamed as his shoulder blades and arms flexed with each arching of his sword. One of his surefooted steps backward resulted in the ball of his foot slipping in the powdery dirt. His leg buckled and he fell to one knee. The Banachi forced his sword in a downward arc, taking advantage of his added height. A grating screech pierced the air as Leofwin swung his sword up to meet the Banachi’s. Both their chests heaved and their corded muscles strained as each poured their strength into pushing against the other’s steel.
    “Where shall I draw blood?” The Banachi’s words came out though bursts and pauses due to his deep panting.

Interview: 


1.       Why did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t think there was a definite moment when I decided that I wanted to write. It’s just something that I’ve always loved doing. I love stories no matter what shape or form they come in. I am innately curious about human nature and the driving force behind our actions. So rather than say that I decided to become a writer, I found a story that I desperately wanted to share with the world. Desperate is a strong word, but when I imagine the world that I’ve created it’s like a warmth is released in the pit of my stomach and I want to share that excitement and wonder with everyone I can reach.
2.      Where do you like to write?
In my ideal world, I would be able to write outside, maybe in a park or by the beach. (I did the last bit of my writing for this book while on vacation in Tofino which was amazing!) But I write on my laptop so it’s hard to see the screen when I am outside. Instead I try to sit by a window as much as possible to at least be able to see a tree.
I always have to write at a desk of some sort. From the years I’ve spent at school, that position has been ingrained into me as a method to concentrate. The surface around my laptop has to be clear or else I will get distracted very easily. There is always a specific zone that I try to achieve and once I’m there, it doesn’t matter where I am because I just get sucked in.
That’s why I can’t write in public. In that state, I feel almost vulnerable and if I’m brought out of it too abruptly I feel very disoriented.
3.      What is your favourite hobby?
When I am not in the throes of reading or putting my nose to the grindstone for school, I play field hockey. Growing up I played every sport possible, each season brought new teams and equipment. When I was much younger field hockey was the spring sport that I didn’t give much attention to, but then when I decided the politics of soccer were too much, I spent more time playing field hockey.
Now I can’t imagine any sport being more fun. Vancouver, especially the North Shore, is a hub for field hockey and our women’s field hockey program is one of the most successful in Canada so I have been surrounded by amazing players my entire life.
It’s definitely difficult to learn at first since there are quite a number of rules and the sport isn’t as prominent in our media as sports like soccer or football are. I like to think of it as having a lot of the same strategy as soccer in terms of positioning on the field, but it has the speed of hockey. The best of both worlds.
4.      Do you prefer music or television?
That is a good question. Many times, I feel like I am not as big a fanatic of a musician as those I spend time with (apart from the Beatles). Instead I like music as a distraction when I go for runs in the forest. I use it to send my mind elsewhere and imagine funny scenarios. Or else I enjoy music when it is involved in a humorous way, like some of those fun videos on Youtube where people lip sync or make parodies.
Other than that, music is just background noise in my life. I listen to the radio in the car or dance to it when I go out, but I never dedicate time to just listening to music. Evidently, if it takes me this long to explain, I still have issues I need to work through when it comes to music.
I did play the bass clarinet in high school, and I played in the Pit in a rendition of Little Shop of Horrors, but interacting with other musicians who are so passionate, I feel lacking in my enthusiasm. Music has always felt like a butterfly, fluttering just out of my reach, unattainable yet beautiful. But I can’t immerse myself in it like I do television or reading, probably because there is still so much about it that I don’t know.
But the easy answer is television because, once again, I love stories.
5.      A pet peeve?
Don’t get me started. I suppose for the purpose of these questions I should stick to just one. I could go with something obvious like chewing gum with your mouth open, but that’s just too easy. Instead I am particular about punctuality. I’ve gotten better about it over the years – when I was younger I would be annoyed if someone was a few minutes late – but it still irks me when someone is late and they never warned me.
For some reason, in my mind I view it as they don’t respect my time even if it’s five or ten minutes and I can easily waste triple that time on my own. But I always try to arrive on time, if not early, and I expect others to do the same.
6.      Reading or writing?
In an ideal world, it would be equal parts of each. A lot of time when I’m reading I’m inspired to write because I want to create worlds as intricate and beautiful as theirs.  But if I had to choose one for the rest of my life it would be reading because that is where my love of stories was first discovered. Plus, I can always amuse myself with my stories.
7.      You are stuck on a desert island. What would you have with you?
There are a thousand cheeky answers to this, depending what the parameters are around it. Are there fruit trees on the island? Are there animals? Anything dangerous I need to worry about? So for the sake of answering this correctly, I am going to make the assumption that all my most basic needs are being met. I am able to scavenge enough to keep me full and I managed to build a shelter out of the foliage.
At this point in mind, I would probably have a deck of cards with me. When I am tired out of swimming in the sea with the dolphins, and swinging around the trees like Tarzan, nothing is going to keep me entertained as much as cards. Especially since it is impossible for me to win at Solitaire.
8.      Writing on paper or on a device?
Over the years I have been firmly converted to my laptop. I can type faster than I can write – almost as quickly as I can think! Therefore, I can keep up with my thoughts, plus I never have to worry about running out of paper or getting hand pains.
But a big positive for me is being able to edit anything at any time. Especially if I get in the mood to write nonlinearly. For the most part I like to write my stories beginning to end, but sometimes I am inspired to write a specific conversation or description and I skip forward. Using a laptop just makes it all more convenient.
9.      Your ideal weather conditions?
Vancouver is known for its rain and while I grew up here, not having the choice to move to a nicer climate, I have learned to love the rain. This summer has been especially hot with the only change from the blazing sun was when the smoke shifted over from the forest fires in interior British Columbia.
People from Vancouver are almost connoisseurs of rain. There are the heavy rains that pass through in the blink of an eye but leave everything in its path soaked to the bone, and the misty rain that will last all day. I prefer the overcast-light rain myself since it is perfect for outdoor activity. It is warm enough that you don’t need a million coats, but cool enough that you won’t get overheated when you do your activity. But I could never leave the rain altogether because it almost feels like an old friend.
10.   Favourite food?
Pizza and burgers are always a popular choice, but I live on the West Coast so in my area we have a lot of good sushi. I don’t think there is ever a time when I will refuse a good California roll. Avocado, crab, and cucumber wrapped up in delicious sticky rice and seaweed. What more could you want?

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