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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight - Rebel Song by Amanda J. Clay



Rebel Song
Author: Amanda J. Clay
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 370
Genre: YA

Book Description:
Caught on opposite sides of a budding civil war, a rebel leader and a modern day princess fight to save their country from a corrupt Minister General in a fictional Central Europe.

The once prosperous European nation of Arelanda has been plagued with poverty and corruption since the failed rebellion tore it apart. Now, rebels stir again in the capital’s underbelly, vowing to depose the monarchy and overturn the unjust government.

Seventeen-year-old Rogan Elwood, son of a rebel leader executed for treason after the first rebellion, has borne a tainted legacy his entire life. As he is pulled deeper into conflict, Rogan must face his calling in the future of the rebel cause—waging his want for peace against his desire for vengeance. Everything changes when he falls for Elyra—modern, idealistic and determined to bring Arelanda a better future. She also just happens to be next in line to the throne—if the corrupt Minister General doesn’t beat her to it.

Caught in the midst of a budding civil war and surrounded by enemies on every side, Elyra and Rogan must fight to save themselves and their country.

Buy Links:
Amazon US ¦ UK ¦ B&N


EXCERPT

CHAPTER 1
Rogan was struggling to pull the last crab from the trap, its flailing claws scratching and pinching for survival.
 “Sorry bub,” he said to the scaly creature. “A boy’s gotta eat. You’re just on the wrong end of the food chain today.” He gave it a yank, finally prying it loose from the trap and stuffed it into his canvas sack, suffering only a minor pinch in the process. It hadn’t been the most lucrative day, but five crabs were better than none. Regardless, it was a much-needed afternoon alone with the ocean to mull around in his own thoughts. Things with The Cause were escalating with every passing day and the peace they’d known the past few years was teetering on a precipice of destruction.
He stood and stretched his back, stiff from hunching over the traps all afternoon. The seaside air whipped through his shaggy hair and the salt stung at a newly acquired scrape on his elbow, courtesy of his new mutt of a puppy. The spring air mingled with the midday sun to send a shimmer across the vast ocean. Resisting the urge to swim toward the horizon and never look back, he packed his things and headed up the beach.
“Something to spare?” a small voice called up. She knelt on a tattered blanket in the sand with a small basket beside her. Sad round eyes begged from a sunken face. Rogan reached into his pocket and retrieved a few pounds.
“Don’t encourage her,” a husky voiced barked as Rogan moved to hand over the change. He snapped up to see a portly city ranger fingering his black baton.
“She’s just a little girl,” Rogan argued.
“Let her beg in the alleys like the rest of ‘em. We don’t need them cluttering up the beaches too and bothering the tourists. Now, get on.”
Rogan debated tossing the coins her way anyway, but wasn’t particularly in the mood for a baton to the head. He offered the child a sympathetic frown and put the pounds back. He’d remember that face and find her again.
             
He moved up the beach again until the sirens’ call of the water slipped under his skin. He decided to postpone heading back in favor of a few moments of solitude on his favorite rock point. Slinging his pack over his shoulder, he scuttled up the rocks like he had a thousand times, settling on a smooth patch with a view that stretched into the unknown like the vastness of dreams.  To the East, the panorama stretched over the city center with its ancient structures reaching toward the clouds. The city faded into the lush rolling hills of Pear Valley—where pear trees had been long replaced by vineyards. Arelanda was one of the smallest nations in Europe, but its scenery mirrored classical paintings. The bitter wind sliced through the air, nipping his tanned skin, but he didn’t mind. Its bite was invigorating. The drone of bickering salty fisherman and scampering port children faded into the deep as he watched the waves gently lick their way up the shore, and he let himself go to another place—away from war and death.
A sudden yelp rippled through the air, breaking his solace. He jerked to attention and scanned the scenes below him in the sand, seeing nothing but lapping waves and a haggard old woman peddling hand-knit garments from a canvas tent. Then, as if the yelp had shattered and now spilled out, faint moans crept up the rocks. His curiosity pricked, he moved to the other side of the rock plateau, nearly toppling over the edge when he saw a girl curled up in the sand, her hand clutching a delicate, bone-white ankle. Thick curls of burning cinnamon fell long and wavy around her petite shoulders, and the airy fabric of her green dress danced around her in the wind.
“You all right?” He called out from his post. Her head jerked up and her eyes—so green they penetrated the distance between them—widened with alarm. She said nothing, staring at him like a wood deer caught in a hunter’s sight.
“Need some help?”
She shrank back against the rocks without responding.
“Can’t you talk?” He called out again. When she didn’t answer again, Rogan carefully footed the rocks and lowered himself into the sand.
“Of course I can speak,” the girl snapped as he approached, her body stiff and defensive. “I’m not an animal.”
Her annoyance tickled him and he stifled a snicker.  The girl lowered her head and examined her hands intently. The early spring breeze was toying with her long sundress, blowing the soft, silky fabric—completely inappropriate for the beach—firmly against her slight figure. Her ethereal presence captured him in time before she felt his gaze and shot her emerald eyes up sharply to meet his.
 “Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?” She asked in a tone so arrogant it suggested she was accustomed to being the most important person in the room. He hadn’t realized he was staring and his response caught in his throat.
“I asked you a question,” she stated firmly. “Or perhaps you don’t hear?”
He expelled an uncontrollable belly laugh. She looked about his age, but her tone suggested a great deal more naiveté. And a lot more spoiled.
“So you ask to help me, and then just stand there. Are you dumb?” She continued, clearly frustrated.
“Not last I checked, but I guess it’s up for debate.” He grinned.
She rolled her eyes and let out a melodramatic sigh.
“Just leave me alone.” She turned her head away and went back to gripping her ankle. Humid, silent air surrounded them as he stood quietly a few yards away—not sure of what to say—their only accompaniment the faint squawking serenade of a sea bird perched on a light pole.
“I’ve hurt myself; in case you were too stupid to notice,” she finally snapped, nodding toward her swollen ankle. Rogan smirked.
“I see that.” He came and knelt beside her in the sand. Up close, he saw the evidence of tears—her red-rimmed eyes were a sharp contrast to skin like polished marble. He fought back every instinct that begged to trace that skin with a fingertip. As if sensing his hidden urge, she instinctively pulled away. “Hey, don’t worry. I don’t bite. Let me look,” he insisted.
He pushed her hands aside and examined the red, swollen lump on her ankle that was quickly darkening into a fierce shade of angry purple. She winced at his touch.
“Fall off the rocks?”
She unconsciously glanced to where the jagged mini cliff climbed into a towering peak above and blushed.
“I was trying to look at the distance,” she admitted with a sigh. “The view is…I never get to see the ocean.”
“That’s sounds a little destitute,” he laughed. “The view is pretty incredible, but the rocks are more slippery than you’d think,” he tried to console her as he examined her injury. “Well, it doesn’t look like you’ve got anything more serious than a bad twist. It’ll be swollen and sore for a week or so, but you’ll be fine.”
“How do you know that?”
 “You’re not the only one who likes a good view.” He grinned, coaxing a tiny, shy smile from her. “Can you stand?”
Her brow furrowed and she twisted her mouth in what looked like an admission of fear. Rogan gave her a half smile.
“Let me help you. Just be careful.” He reached his arms under hers and, before she could protest, he hoisted her up. She let out an exaggerated yelp of pain and scowled.
“Be careful!”
“Aren’t you a delicate thing?” he teased to her vexation.
She steadied herself on her good ankle and tried to stand straight.
“So, what’s your name?”
She shot him a disbelieving look.
 “I beg your pardon, whoever-you-are, but do not think to address me so comfortably. You don’t even know me,” she asserted, with one delicate arm now on her hip, nearly causing her to topple over. Rogan chortled.
 “What does that even mean? You’re going to have to talk normal if you want me to understand you.”
The girl rolled her eyes.
“Well, so sorry if some of us prefer to speak properly.”
“Well, so sorry if some of us would rather be understood.” He playfully patted her cheek. Her cheeks filled with blood and her fists clenched. She swatted his hand away.
 “Stop that!”
 “Oh come on, don’t be so serious. Never met a girl hanging out by the docks unwilling to give out her name.”
 “I’ll have you know, I don’t make a habit of hanging around the docks.” She pursed her quivering lips.
“Sorry, sorry. No need to get so worked up. Let’s try this all again, okay? I’m Rogan. You?” She glared at him and her rosy mouth twisted into a tight, stubborn purse. “Maybe you don’t have a name?”
She rolled her eyes and unclenched her fists.
“Of course I have a name. I’m El. El…” she struggled with the words. “Just El.” Rogan extended his hand in courtesy.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Just El,” he said with exaggerated formality. If her high dialect didn’t give it away, he would have known she was upper class simply by the way she stared blankly at his extended hand. You weren’t supposed to shake hands with high-born girls and they were not accustomed to anyone breaking that practice. But after a moment, she hesitantly reached out, placed her small hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze. The feel of her warm skin pressed against his sent a small tremor through his fingertips.
“So, whatcha doing just falling off rocks all by yourself?” He asked, shaking off the energy in his fingers.
 “I told you, I was looking at the ocean.” She let her eyes wander back to the water.
“It’s just water. They keep you locked in a cage or something?” he laughed. She didn’t respond. “Anyway, it’s not really safe to be wandering this close to the docks by yourself.”
At that, she rolled her eyes.
“Oh please,” she huffed. “I come down here all the time.”
Rogan eyed her silken dress and shiny beaded sandals skeptically.
“Clearly. Well, I should get you to where you can wrap your ankle. Is there some place you’re supposed to be?”
“No!” She let out an apprehensive sigh. “I mean, I’m supposed to be sitting at the library listening to a lecture, but I was so bored. I never get to come into town. I can’t very well just sit indoors when I finally do, right? So I…stepped out.”
Rogan laughed. Two rosy spheres formed on her milky white cheeks and he had to snap his eyes away to keep from staring.
“Well, I guess we better get you back then.” He then realized they were in a secluded cove with no way out other than up the rocks, or through the water. “Um…I’m guessing you can’t climb on that thing, can you?” El’s face flushed and she lowered her eyes before shaking her head. “Okay, didn’t think so. Well…” he regarded both the rock wall and her. “I guess I’ll have to piggyback you.”
Her bright eyes widened with horror.
“Excuse me? You want me to…to…” she pointed a finger at him. Rogan shrugged.
“I don’t see another way out unless you want to brave the ocean. But I warn you—that’s still winter water out there. And the rocks right here are nasty sharp.”
El’s eyes flicked to the playful waves tickling the shore then back to the steep cliff. She sighed dramatically.
 “I can’t believe this,” she muttered.
“Hey, don’t blame me. I didn’t push you off the wall.”
“Are you sure you can carry me?”
“You look pretty light. Just make sure to hold on.”
She grimaced, then hobbled closer. Rogan knelt down onto one knee. Gingerly, El slid her wiry arms around his neck then eased her body up onto his back.
“Holding on?”
“Yes.”
He stood abruptly, drawing a yelp from El, who now hung like foul in a butcher’s shop from around his neck. Rogan choked as her arms pressed deeper into his throat.
“You’re going to need to wrap your legs around me to distribute your weight,” he almost laughed. “Haven’t you ever had a piggyback ride?” He couldn’t see her face, but he was pretty sure she scowled at the back of his head. Regardless, she slid her legs around his middle and locked them into place. The warmth of her slender form against his back and her breath on his neck tickled at his insides. “Good. Okay, now hold on.”
She hardly weighed more than his pack of crabs, so he made it up the rocks without too much effort, despite her shrieks and excessive grip around his neck. When they reached the cliff top, he crouched down to let El slide off, who then fell to the ground in a pile of giggles.
“Well, that was definitely a first,” she laughed, releasing her breath. Her cinnamon hair, now wind tousled, fell around her narrow shoulders in a cascade of tangles, and her fair cheeks were rosy and wind-kissed. Rogan reached down to help her back up.
“C’mon. Let’s get back to town. Can you make it down the rest of the way?” She nodded. He picked up his sack of crabs and flung it over his shoulder. “Good, I have to get this catch up to the fish market. After that I’ll take you back to the Plaza.”

They hobbled down the slope of the cliff toward Plaza Hiro, the heart of Arelanda City, the nation’s vibrant capital. The merchants, shoppers and chatty birds hummed around them with the refreshing sounds of early springtime. As they moved farther from the beach, the scents of salt and fish faded into the savory aromas of fresh fried breads and roasted pig. As the first clear day since the winter blanket had lifted, the downtown market was bursting with commerce. The occasional tourist—always identifiable by their oversized hats, local maps and perplexed expressions—could still be spotted roaming the ancient streets, despite the collapse of tourism in recent years. The once prosperous and bustling small nation nestled at the southern coast of Europe’s center hadn’t been the same since the war and the subsequent failed rebellion.
The succulent scent of fried bread swept past Rogan’s nose and he had the sudden urge to gnash his teeth into a renowned Arelanda City delicacy.
“Damn, that smells good,” Rogan said more to himself than his companion.
“Indeed. What is that glorious aroma?” El asked, closing her eyes and absorbing the scent. Rogan snickered.
“Do you always talk like that?” Her refined dialect was near theatrical. She answered his question with a haughty scowl.
“You can be very rude, you know.”
“That’s fried bread,” he ignored her insult. “C’mon, let’s get one. I’m starved.”
“Fried what?”
“You’ve never had fried bread? Where are you from?” Rogan asked in genuine shock, stopping to face her. Confusion twisted her expression.
Fried bread? Fried in what, fat?”
 Rogan shook his head.
“No, not fat. Grape seed oil. You’ve really never had it?” he asked doubtfully. She shook her head.
“It’s not like I’m lying.”
“Well then you, my dear Just El, are in for a treat.”
They approached the rickety bread stand draped in a coarse white canopy with a hand-painted sign that read: “Viola’s Famous Fried Bread. Half pound for half loaf.” El tossed a handful of coins onto the counter.
“I’ll take…whatever this will get.” Viola, with cropped black hair striped with gray and a small puckered mouth, eyed the girl with a look of both skepticism and contempt. Young girls in silk dresses didn’t just throw around handfuls of money at the port.
“Hey, Viola. Friend from…out of town,” Rogan nodded toward El.
Viola rolled her saggy eyes but reached for the bread, gave each piece a thick slab of steaming butter, and wrapped four half loaves into waxed paper. Slinging bread for thirty years portside had given Viola very little tolerance for anyone.
Rogan was still unwrapping his piece when El eagerly sank her teeth into the steaming, succulent slice of thick, buttery bread.
“Good God,” she squealed with her mouth full of dough and lips slicked with butter. Oil dripped down her chin. “It’s superb!”
 Rogan tried to stifle a laugh.
“Congratulations. You’ve officially tasted the most amazing thing in the world.” He helped himself to a bite of his own. “C’mon,” he motioned her to follow as he took a seat on the ledge of a large stone fountain carved in the likeness of a lion. El gobbled up the first large slab as if she didn’t know when she might eat next, which by the healthy glow of her polished skin was clearly not the case. Rogan wrapped up the rest of his own bread and placed it in his sack, knowing his little sister Arianna would be ecstatic over it.
“Thanks for the snack,” he was a little embarrassed at having some girl buy him food. That wasn’t the way he did things.
“Thanks for helping me with my ankle.” She smiled. “Who knows what kind of danger I would have found otherwise?”
“You wouldn’t have stood a chance.”
“So, do you live around here?” She asked, pulling an embroidered handkerchief from her dress pocket and wiping the grease from her chin.
“No, our vineyard is a few miles out of the city boundaries. In Pear Valley.”
“Vineyard? You grow grapes?” Her expression brightened. Rogan nodded.
“And make wine. Best in Arelanda.”
“Aren’t you a little young to run a business?” She asked skeptically, her eyes regarding his features as if to decide if that were true. Rogan chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.
“Is that just a coy way of finding out my age?”
El’s mouth twitched and she shrugged.
“Maybe.”
“Well I’m sixteen, so hardly.  Seventeen this summer.”
“You actually seem older than that,” El examined his face curiously.
“Sometimes I feel older,” Rogan laughed. “But I’m getting pretty good at it. Winemaking, I mean. Practically been at it since I could walk.”
El bit her perfectly pink lip and seemed to ponder the idea of working.
“Isn’t it a bit cruel and uncivilized to put children to work?” She half teased.
“I guess the civilized part is up for debate, but cruel? Hardly. We don’t tolerate idleness in the Valley. Too much to be done. What about you?  Live in the city?”
Her face shifted to a look of contemplation like it was a trick question.
“We...we live outside of the city as well. We have...a bit of land.”
“Do you farm?” Rogan perked up. Maybe they had something in common. She pursed her lips and slowly shook her head.
“No.” She didn’t offer additional explanation. Silence seized the moment and they sat awkwardly, fumbling with the quiet.
“Well, I still have work to do,” Rogan finally said, realizing that as much as he didn’t want to pull himself away from this mysterious girl, he should get going. The last thing he needed was to be accused of corrupting some heiress. He was well aware that unnecessary mingling of classes was always considered suspicious.
“Can I take you anywhere?”
El’s eyes fell with the weight of disappointment.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll manage from here,” she sighed.
“How’s your ankle?”
“It hurts, but not as badly as I thought it would.”
“Good.” He helped her steady herself. “It should heal up in a few weeks. Just don’t climb any more rocks ‘til it does.”
“Thank you for your help, Rogan.” She tittered, looking down at her swollen ankle. “I must seem pretty pathetic. Such a damsel in distress, eh?” She looked up at him, her large cat eyes shimmering in the sunlight.
“Nah. I’ve seen worse.”
Blush snuck up on her cheeks again.
“Well, ‘bye then.” She turned to walk away, but hesitated.  
“It was nice, um…meeting you,” Rogan blurted out.
She stopped in place and paused for a moment before turning back with a mischievous glance. Something teetering on dangerous swept over her eyes and she tilted her head.
          “Maybe it won’t be the last time.” With that, she turned and hobbled toward the library.


About the Author
Amanda J. Clay is a writing YA and Adult fiction from Dallas, TX. A Northern California native, she had a fantastic time studying English and Journalism at Chico State University and then a very serious time slaving away for a Master’s degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton. When she’s not staring at a computer screen, she spends most of her spare time on some new fitness addiction and plotting world adventures.

Her latest book is the young adult novel, Rebel Song.

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