Welcome to the blog tour for YELLOW LOCUST, a stand-alone young adult dystopian adventure, by Justin Joschko. See below for information on the book, buy links, an exclusive deleted scene, and details on his giveaway.
About the Book
Title: YELLOW LOCUST
Author: Justin Joschko
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian Adventure
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | GooglePlay | BAM! | !ndigo | IndieBound | Book Depository
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..
Yellow Locust suffered a lot of growing pains. Though the structure stayed pretty consistent in the first draft, it culminated in something that wasn’t quite working. Whole characters and plotlines were excised and reshaped. It was a painful but necessary process. The end result is a much stronger book, but there were elements of the first story that I really liked but had to discard. One of them is a character known as The Engineer, a benevolent tinkerer dwelling on the outskirts of Fallowfield, the farm town where most of the novel takes place. You won’t encounter The Engineer in Yellow Locust, but I still like the way he was introduced in the first draft.
* * *
A pair of metal tracks, barely visible beneath a tangle of weeds, ran straight on to the horizon. Many of the railway ties had been taken up ages ago and used for lumber, and those that remained were rotten. The service road that ran parallel to the tracks was in no better shape. Its concrete skin had been stripped away, leaving a faded scar of dirt dotted with scraggly tufts of clover and burdock and dandelion.
They came upon a solitary building rising from the grass. It looked almost like a barn, except for the raised porch and abundance of dirt-streaked windows. A wooden platform ran the length of the building. It dropped off abruptly at the edge of the tracks.
But the building wasn’t what drew Selena’s attention. Beside it rose a windmill, its skeletal frames cobbled together from a hodgepodge of wood and scrap metal. Its great blades turned in the breeze, creaking faintly.
“Does that mean they have electricity here?” Simon asked.
“Yeah, probably. If those things work. They look pretty junky.”
Selena and Simon hoisted the wagon up the steps. They knocked on the door, waited a minute, and knocked again. No one answered. A noise they couldn’t quite make out issued from inside the building. It sounded like abrupt bursts of rainfall punctuated by silence. Selena tried opening the door, found it unlocked, and went inside.
The building contained a single gargantuan room. Support beams arched fifty feet above the floor, which was covered with tables. They divided the room into long, claustrophobic aisles running two hundred feet from one end to the other. The tables varied in almost every way— size, shape, material— but they were all bogged down beyond capacity with stuff, sagging from their burden.
At the back of the room sat an enormous man with freckled, ebony skin. His girth seemed almost to swallow the chair beneath him. He twiddled the knobs of a short-wave radio, his belly protruding out the sides of a huge and dirty pair of dark green overalls. Static crackled from the speaker. The man’s chair was made from plastic and steel much like the ones Selena’s parents had used in Jericho. Its casters rumbled as they slid across the concrete floor. He swivelled to face Selena and Simon, his wide face split by a toothy smile.
“Well hi there, little miss,” he said. His voice was deep and mirthful and warbled with the drawl of the New Confederacy. “And hi to you too, junior.”
“You the engineer?” Selena asked.
“That’s what they call me in the village. Y’all ain’t from there though, are you? I ain’t seen you around before.”
“No. We’re just passing through.”
“Passin’ through, huh? Y’all merchants or somethin’?”
“No. We’re heading west.” She tapped the wagon with her foot. “These are our supplies.”
“Lookin’ a little sparse for long distance travel. How far west you goin’, exactly?”
“Look, we didn’t come here for a chat. We got something to sell and a man in Fallowfield told us you might be interested in buying.”
The engineer chuckled. He rubbed his chin. “Okay, girl. What you got this man thinks I might be after?”
Selena handed the engineer the jerry can. He turned it this way and that, hefted it, and took a sniff of the nozzle. “Well I’ll be damned. Where’d you get this from?”
“East,” said Selena, in a tone that made it clear she would not elaborate.
“How much you askin’ for it?”
“At least two hundred,” Selena said. “But we’ll take it in supplies if necessary. We need enough to get us to the coast.”
“The West coast?!” The engineer laughed. “Well, first thing y’all need is a bigger wagon. I’d recommend an armed caravan, too. Maybe a helicopter, you think that won’t strain your budget.”
Selena stared blankly at the engineer, who rubbed his forehead with one large, meaty hand.
“Y’all are serious,” the engineer said. “I’m not sure exactly how far y’all have travelled, though I’m guessin’ considering your little can here that it’s awful damn far. But distance on flat ground is one thing, when the only thing around you is open plains and some outposts fit to sell you supplies. Goin’ over the mountains, that’s a whole ‘nother story.”
“Do you want the gas or not?” Selena asked.
The engineer laughed. His chair groaned under his shifting weight.
“You don’t play, do you girl? Yeah, I want your gas. I don’t know what I’ll do with it, but I ain’t likely to come across it again anytime soon. Wait here.” The engineer hoisted himself out of his chair. Selena didn’t think he’d manage it at first, but he did. He disappeared around the corner and returned a minute later with a small metal lockbox. He opened the box with a key and counted out a small stack of bills. The age-stiffened papers rustled against his dry, callused thumbs. He handed the stack to Selena, who counted it quickly.
“There’s three hundred a the New Canaan Standard there,” the engineer said. “I’d take your offer and pay you out in supplies, but I dunno where to even begin. So instead, I’ll throw in some advice for y’all.”
The engineer settled back in his chair with a contented sigh. “If you don’t mind me askin’, what is it y’all expect to find on the coast?”
“We have people there,” Selena said. “People we need to reach.”
“These people, when did they go west?”
“Don’t know. Years ago, I guess. I’ve never met them.”
“Then I s’pose they can’t miss you that bad.” The engineer chuckled to himself. “Do these people have any sort of plan for y’all? Have they arranged passage or given y’all a name of someone to contact on this side?”
“No,” Selena admitted.
The engineer leaned forward. “Then here’s my advice. If y’all ain’t expected, then don’t make the trip. It ain’t all that safe for a group of mercenaries to cross the mountains, let alone a couple kids and a wagon.”
“Have you been?” Selena asked.
The engineer smiled. “I look like a got the travel bug to you, girl?”
“Then how do you know?”
“There was a time Fallowfield was the biggest trading post in the Middle Wastes. Much a that fell away when the outskirts of K City burned, but the city’s still a big part of the Green Townships. Lotta people come through here. A fella lives here long enough, he gets to know where people go and where they don’t. And I ain’t recall anyone goin’ over the mountains in many a long year.”
“What about a caravan?” asked Simon. “That’s how we got to—”
Selena gave Simon a sharp kick to the calf. Simon winced. “Ow! Don’t.” Selena’s gaze was cold and implacable. Simon looked down at the floor. “Anyway, we took one once. It was safe.”
“Look, if y’all find a caravan, that’s prob’ly your best option. But I ain’t heard’ve any caravans over the mountains in years. Things have gotten kinda hot out west. I think y’all might wanna reconsider your options.”
“What concern is it of yours what we do?” asked Selena.
“Ain’t no concern of mine at all. Just giving fair warning.”
Selena turned and left. Simon stayed where he was for a moment, looking from the engineer to his sister. He offered the engineer a small shrug. “Thanks for buying our gas,” he said.
“Don’t mention it, junior. Thanks for selling.”
“Can you really talk to people all over the world with that thing?” Simon asked, pointing at the radio.
“I surely can.”
“Do you think…” Simon began. He trailed off. Something sad and grey passed across his face. “Uh, never mind. Thanks.”
The engineer watched the boy disappear down an alley of junk. It swallowed him in an instant, leaving nothing behind but the sound of his footsteps gradually fading with distance. The engineer picked at a dirty spot in his overalls and lost himself in thought.
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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway