Monday, 14 May 2018

Blog Tour + Guest Post + Giveaway - Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko

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Yellow Locust by Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: Month9Books

Selena Flood is a fighter of preternatural talent. But not even her quick fists and nimble feet could save her parents from the forces of New Canaan, the most ruthless and powerful of the despotic kingdoms populating America-that-was.

Forced to flee the tyrannical state with her younger brother Simon in tow, Selena is now the last chance for peace in a continent on the verge of complete destruction.

In her pocket is a data stick, the contents of which cost her parents their lives. Selena must now ensure it reaches the Republic of California—a lone beacon of liberty shining across a vast and barren wasteland—before it’s too late.

Between New Canaan and California stretch the Middle Wastes: thousands of desolate miles home to murderers, thieves, and a virulent strain of grass called yellow locust that has made growing food all but impossible. So when Selena and Simon stagger into Fallowfield, an oasis of prosperity amidst the poisoned plains, everything seems too good to be true—including the warm welcome they receive from the town’s leader, a peculiar man known only as The Mayor.

As Selena delves deeper into the sinister secrets of this seemingly harmless refuge, she soon learns there is a much darker side to Fallowfield and the man who runs it. Before long, she must call upon the skills she honed in the fighting pits of New Canaan to ensure not only her own survival, but that of her brother, in whom the Mayor has taken far too keen an interest.

And she’d better act fast, for an all-out war inches ever closer, and New Canaan is never as far away as it seems.

Purchase Links:

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The world of …  (World Building)

World building can be done in two ways: from the top down, and the bottom up.

Top-down world building happens outside of the story, often before you’ve even written a single word. Rather than work on the narrative, you instead consider the world in which the story will take place. How is it like the world we live in? How does it differ? Perhaps it’s the same as ours, but at a different moment of time. If it’s in the past, how does its history diverge from ours? If it’s in the future, what has changed? Or maybe it’s set on a different planet, or a world that is like ours but with its own geography, biology, and cultures (think Tolkien’s Middle Earth). In top-down world building, all of these ideas are considered and fleshed out without relation to any particular character. Much of what you plan might involve events that happened long before your actual story begins. The idea is to create a cohesive universe in which your story can be set.

Bottom-up world building, on the other hand, occurs when you’re writing the novel. You’ve got your characters, a goal, and obstacles in the way. As you write, you might start drawing on details of the setting or behavior that don’t directly correspond to the world as we know it. Perhaps a winged serpent flutters through the trees, or a ring of robed men drink spoonfuls of a pungent brew bubbling over a cauldron, chant strange syllables and disappear. If so, you can ask yourself “what was that thing? What were those guys doing? Why?” organically, through your prose, you can explore these events in more detail. Or if it feels like to big a digression, you might reflect on what happened without writing it, and use those details later to enrich the world of your story.

These options aren’t an either-or proposition. I use both of them in pretty much every story I write. I like to have a framework in mind before I start actually writing: key characters, an ending, and an outline of major events. But within that framework, I allow myself opportunities to draw on unexpected details and bring them into the larger world of the story.

Below, I’ve shared examples of both techniques.

The text in the top-down section was never intended to appear in the book. Rather, it is a note to myself outlining the history of the Last War, a cataclysmic event that created the world where Yellow Locust is set. Its purpose was to give me a sense of where this story is taking place, so events that occur or decisions characters make are rooted in a deeper context.

The Last War refers not to a war in the traditional sense, but to a prolonged and catastrophic period of worsening geopolitical relations, resource scarcity, disease, and mass famine culminating in the dissolution of most world powers and the death of globalism. The "war" occurred over a period of roughly twenty years (approx dates 2080-2100), and was preceded by a near-century during which populations grew and resources shrank. Peak oil led to a scramble for new energy technologies, an effort hindered by spotty infrastructure and crumbling economies. The United States, Russia, China, Brazil, and India all began increasingly belligerent wars of occupation in order to secure their hold on energy resources- first petroleum, but soon the more valuable uranium, which was also quickly running out.

Growing tensions sowed new terrorist cells around the world, many of which were motivated by ecological concerns spurred in large part by the growing corporatization of food manufacturing. The United States were also getting worried, though more by the growing populations of their rivals. Working with one such food corporation, the United States developed Yellow Locust, a bio-engineered plant that could be tailored to individual climates and existed solely to outcompete useful crops and leave once productive soil barren. The government delivered modified versions of the locust to local terrorist organizations in enemy countries, and the world soon plunged into mass famine. Ironically, the Yellow Locust was nowhere more virulent than in the United States itself, where terrorist groups funded by the country's starving enemies employed the very same tactics.

The final years of the conflict saw the only true battles, as crumbling nations took potshots at one another and unleashed the remains of their nuclear arsenals, much of which had been disarmed in times of peace. In order to eliminate perceived technological advantages, the combatants began launching scatterbombs into orbit, fragmentary devices designed to destroy satellites and crippled communication. The bombing left the earth shrouded in a thin layer of debris, killing the global information network and cutting off all communication with the fledgling lunar colony established twenty years earlier.

The conflicts sputtered to a halt around 2100, leaving a fractured world of desolate wastelands and isolated city-states, some of which gradually coalesced through commerce or conquest into new countries.

The bottom-up section is an excerpt from Yellow Locust. It takes place shortly after Selena and Simon stumble onto Fallowfield, a prosperous city amidst an ocean of barren wasteland. This is a good example of bottom-up world building, as it describes the life of the city’s migrant workers in a way I hadn’t planned. Their hardscrabble existence only occurred to me as I was writing the scene and wondering how people in this situation would live:

Fallowfield was bustling but compact and the sun had only just risen when Selena reached the town’s southern gate. Gilded wagons trundled past her, driven by coachmen and guarded by hawkish men with rifles. Plump merchants in clothes too fine for fieldwork rode inside them, their interiors gaudy with velvet and bulging with veins of precious metals. Selena stepped aside to let them pass; judging by the speed of the horses and the indifferent glance of the drivers, she suspected they’d simply run her down if she didn’t.

A band of yellow-grey wasteland snared Fallowfield in place like a vast poison collar. If Selena was going to break out of it, she’d need help. The Mayor had given her a spark of hope with his talk of caravans, but a ride would mean little if she lacked the means to buy her and Simon passage. She needed Standard, and she could think of one way to make some.

Outside of its walls, Fallowfield changed. Its air of bucolic prosperity vanished, swept away by a derelict wind of dust and trash and rust-eaten machines abandoned on the roadside.

The picturesque rowhouses and orderly boardwalks gave way to rundown cottages and shacks with roofs of corrugated tin, the cheesemongers and bakeries to corn husks and smashed liquor bottles and cast iron cauldrons bubbling with soupy gruel. Half-naked children played in muddy pits while their parents toiled in the fields, their bare feet sleeved with pale calluses as thick as the soles of Selena’s shoes.

From a distance, the land had seemed prosperous, but up close the crops looked ragged and nervous, their grip on the soil tenuous. Whole fields had fallen to the yellow locust, their neat rows choked by fronds of brittle grass. The cabins in those fields were particularly woebegone, their windows shattered, their roofs caved inward. They lay among the dead crops like skulls in a forgotten battlefield, their violent deaths eroded from memory.

At a bend in the road stood a tent city, ripped tarpaulins and toppled signs and shaggy strips of unearthed plastic tangled together into a sprawling and shifting metropolis. Muddy lanes, alleys, and cul-de-sacs wandered through the flimsy structures in odd and looping patterns that led nowhere. The place seemed less like something built than something grown, a vast fungus sprouting from the soggy earth. So this is where the migrants live, for now at least. I wouldn’t want to be out here come winter.

Past the tent city rolled fields rife with migrants hoeing weeds, picking fruit, and harvesting rows of grain. Selena approached a woman kneeling bent-backed over a raspberry bush.

“Who’s in charge here?”

The woman looked up, revealing wizened cheeks of tanned leather. Her hands continued plucking berries, her fingers deft as insects evolved to that purpose. She motioned with her head, not wanting to stall her labor for even the instant it would take to point.

About the Author

Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.


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