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The taste-off: the next-to-last sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairIt’s the next-to-last sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY! I hope you’ve enjoyed these wee tastes of the fourth Rucksack Universe adventure.

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the final sneak peek!

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

Sneak Peek: The taste-off

“ZARA KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT tasting beer,” said Branwen. “She can taste a hop substitution while stuffed up with a head cold.”

Rucksack and Zara locked eyes and grinned. Then they each took a long draw of their pints.

“You bottled this ten days ago,” Rucksack said. “And since you did the boil on your stove, there’s some caramelization.” He took a smaller sip, moving it around his palate before swallowing. “But you anticipated that and compensated by adding more hops to increase the bitterness.”

“Is that all you notice?” Zara asked.

“The New Galway Gold hops have been less bitter this year,” Rucksack replied. “All that damn rain in Ireland. Ah, o’ course. So you also bumped up the roasted barley and used a hotter roast,” he added. “That was risky. Easily could have come out too astringent, out of balance.”

It’s like he was there with us, Branwen thought. It’s like he’s reading my notes.

“But it didn’t,” Rucksack continued, and Zara’s eyes brightened as he said, “Because you lowered the temperature while steeping the malted barley, to enhance the sweetness of the sugars being drawn out!”

They all clinked glasses and drank more stout. “It’s been ages since I could talk that level o’ detail,” Rucksack said. “Thank you.”

“Same to you,” Zara replied. “I’m… impressed. You really know your beer.”

“I didn’t know we had a brother,” Branwen said, nudging her sister.

“Oh, saying I was long lost would be putting it mildly,” Rucksack said.

“You’re not going to hit on us, are you?” Zara asked. “Because to put it mildly, you’re wasting your time.”

“Thank goodness,” Rucksack replied. “For a moment I thought you were going to hit on me.” He drank more of his pint, which was now almost empty. Then he stared at a spot over Zara’s head, then Branwen’s, almost as if he were reading something?

“You two really know your stuff,” Rucksack said. “This homebrew is amazing… but it’s not a clone o’ GPS.”

The smile fell off Zara’s face. Branwen’s breath paused.

“It’s the closest I’ve ever encountered,” Rucksack continued. “It’s a damn sight better than the swill passing off for it here tonight. It’s certainly making me feel more myself. But it doesn’t have the secret.”

“So we’ve kind of made GPS,” said Branwen, “only not GPS as it’s supposed to be, but as it is right now.”

“I suppose you could put it that way,” said Rucksack.

“How are we supposed to figure out what na Grúdairí themselves don’t know anymore?” Branwen asked. “That magic, that secret—it’s gone.”

Zara snorted.

Branwen stared at her sister. Before she knew it she said, “You don’t believe in the secret, but something can be real without anyone else believing it. Existence is truth, and it doesn’t give a damn about being believed in. You don’t believe in the secret, that’s your deal, but don’t mock me for what I think.”

Eyes wide, Zara sat back and said nothing.

Rucksack stared from one sister to the other. Again he stared above their heads. Then he was silent, as if he had traveled deep inside his self, into some private world that even from the outside felt as big as the universe. “You said you had studied the lore o’ GPS,” he said slowly. “What have you learned about what it was, and what it is now?”

“For eons there has been the beer,” said Branwen, “and some have said that without the beer the eons wouldn’t have happened. Wherever there has been joy or grief, a hard day or a good day, a lonely drink or a lively party, there has been Galway Pradesh Stout. All around the world, from taps and bottles, the beer has poured. No beer has been as popular or long lived as GPS.”

“Exactly. Today should be like any other day,” replied Rucksack. “People went to the pub after work. Couples opened bottles at dinner. Friends clinked glasses as they watched the match. Some savored their last pint, some their first. Solitary drinkers ordered another GPS, thick and black, with a pillowy-white head like a snowdrift. The stout brings it all into focus, the boldness o’ life, the black and white, the grays and bright colors. It’s said that a pint o’ GPS can make the world make sense, if only for a while. So dry and bitter on the tongue, GPS snaps people back to life, but what really brings them back, time after time and pint after pint, is what’s hidden inside.”

Branwen nodded. “Something was different that day. The beer wasn’t right, but that wasn’t all of it. People realized the beer hadn’t been right for a while.”

“That’s exactly the thing,” said Rucksack, “and it’s been happening all over the world.”

“Where have you been to notice?” Branwen asked.

“Last place I stayed a while was India. I had to deal with some nasty business, but that’s another story for another time. I just got to England a couple o’ days ago. Crossing Asia and Europe I kept encountering dodgy pints, and I realized there was more afoot than dirty lines or a keg left in the sun.”

“And now you’re really noticing that something is wrong with GPS,” Branwen said. “Because this is where First Call Brewing is headquartered?”

“That’s it in one,” Rucksack said. “All this time, people have turned to GPS because it brings them a sense o’ the universe filling them up. It gives a moment when the world makes sense. That moment hasn’t been happening for a while, but people are malleable, forgiving, forgetful. They ignored it, figured it must be them. But it’s happened too many times, and what’s more, the beer is getting worse. Something’s wrong with GPS, and people know it now. But more than that. Something’s rotten in the brewery o’ London. I’ve tried and tried over the years to appeal to the brewmaster. His second-in-command, Gabsir, and I go way back, though not necessarily as best mates. They don’t want my help.”

Zara sat forward. “Because of Guru Deep, I bet.” Bitterness cut through her voice. “Branwen and I can’t stand him.”

Rucksack smiled a thin, sharp smile. “That makes three o’ us. I’m going to sort this out. From the brew kettles o’ First Call, all the way up to Guru Deep’s office at the top o’ the feckin Lotus if I have to.”

“But Deep Inc. took over First Call decades ago,” Branwen said. “What with Galway being destroyed in The Blast, First Call was weakened, had lots of problems, and eventually Deep Inc. took advantage of that. Brewmaster Samara was still in charge when it happened, before she passed leadership to the current brewmaster, Arthur Celbridge. Now Deep Inc. owns two breweries. First Call makes Galway Pradesh Stout, and Deep Brewing brews Deep’s Special Lager. Are you thinking Guru Deep is trying to do something to First Call and GPS?”

“Yes,” said Rucksack, “because it will do what he seeks: hurt me and hurt the world.” A darkness had fallen over Rucksack’s eyes. Long-simmering hostility radiated from him like heat from a boiling brew pot.

“Sounds like you two go way back,” said Zara.

“I’m a thorn he can never quite get out o’ his side, though I try harder.” Rucksack grinned. “I’ve been opposing Deep Inc. since the company’s early days, back when it was run by his grandfather. I’ve always considered the Deeps a pack o’ shysters at best.”

“Deep Inc. began about fifty years after The Blast,” said Branwen, glaring at him. “You look pretty young for a hundred and thirty.”

“It’s not nice to ask a fella his age,” replied Rucksack. “Deep Inc. was mostly fake medical cures then, and tent-revival sermons about the illusion of the world, but always accompanied by the reality o’ the collection plate.” Finishing his pint, Rucksack leaned forward. The clamminess had left his skin and the sweat had dried. His eyes were clear. Behind the darkness, a fire burned. “A few decades ago, Guru Deep came up in the company, doing inspirational talks and self-help books, got famous for his ‘Find Your Third Eye In Half The Time!’ feel-good enlightentainment shite. Today he’s got that, the breweries, his travel guidebooks, and various complicated financial dealings. Over the past few decades he’s built a global empire. Now we’re at a culmination. I’d bet a year’s pints that Guru Deep took over First Call precisely so he could eventually destroy the brewery and the beer.”

“He’s just a big business blowhard,” said Zara.

“Some say Guru Deep is ridiculous, a sparkling nothing with a big smile and a bright suit,” said Rucksack, lowering his voice. He looked over his shoulder and scanned the pub, then turned back to the sisters. “He’s a showman for sure. But make no mistake. He does far more than all the things we just said. For months I’ve been disrupting Guru Deep’s operations. At three in particular—in Marrakech, Mexico City, and Moscow—I saw things that made me wish I was having a nightmare: experiment pits. I shut them down, but the people there… those who had survived… I did what I could, but I can only hope they’ll find a way to live again without screaming. Guru Deep had huge labs where shady and discredited scientists were using people as lab rats. It’s not fake cures anymore. He’s experimenting with reality. Poking at it. Trying to tear it. And seeing what happens to people when you do.”

The sisters leaned back. The air in the pub and the blood in Branwen’s veins felt cold. “Why… Why would he do that?”

“Some people want to rule the world,” said Rucksack. “Guru Deep considers that a lack o’ ambition. He has his sights set far higher. There are those who say the world is an illusion, the dream o’ a sleeping god.”

“That would figure,” said Zara. “Let me guess: Guru Deep doesn’t want to wake the god. He wants to take its place.”

Rucksack nodded. “He hides it well, but everything he does conceals his true self and his true purpose. Guru Deep is one o’ the most dangerous people in the world. Whatever his ultimate plans are, he’s setting them in motion.”

“What can you do about it?” Branwen asked.

“Luckily,” said Rucksack with a smile, “I’m one o’ the most dangerous people in the world too.”

“Who are you, anyway?” Zara asked.

“I’m Faddah Rucksack,” he replied. “The world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. The hero o’ old and the hero o’ now. He who flew and he who fell. He who lost and he who is trying to regain and restore. I am ten thousand years old. I am the fire o’ life, the tiger’s roar. Time and again in history, I have been the one who kept this world not only turning but thriving, saving lives and ensuring tomorrows. And I am the one who, yet again, will stand against Guru Deep.”

Branwen grinned. I’ve been searching for the secret, she thought. I think I might have found it… And now I have also found someone who can tell me I’m on the right path. She looked at her sister—and even Zara had a brightness in her eyes beyond her usual smoldering hardness and skepticism.

Rucksack’s smile fell away. “I’ve a horrible feeling that I can’t stop him though.”

“What?” said both sisters.

“You are amazing brewers,” said Rucksack, “and I believe we’re meeting for a reason. I trust you—it’s in the beer, who you are, how you make it. You know something I don’t. Something Guru Deep doesn’t. Something even na Grúdairí and the brewmaster don’t know anymore. I can’t stop Guru Deep.” He looked from Branwen to Zara and back to Branwen. “But I reckon we can.”

“How?” Zara asked.

Rucksack nodded at the briefcase. “How about I show you?”

Want more?

Pre-order THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY e-book from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway from a chance to win 1 of 10 signed paperbacks (US only):

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the final sneak peek!




Irish voice with a Tibetan face: a sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairWe’re almost to the end of our sneak peek adventures with THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY. Here’s today’s.

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the next-to-last sneak peek!

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

Sneak Peek: Irish voice with a Tibetan face

TAKING HIS BRIEFCASE, the man got up and Jade the bartender followed. When she came out from behind the bar, the two walked side by side, and she carried an empty pint glass. They seemed to know and respect each other, yet a wariness lay between them. As they approached, Branwen thought she heard the bartender say “ghost,” and the man shook his head and tapped the top of his skull. The bartender only shrugged in reply, as if acknowledging good effort to avoid saying it wasn’t quite enough.

“Good evening,” said Jade. “Zara Porter and Branwen Porter, meet my friend Faddah Rucksack. He is finding our current GPS stock a bit… disappointing.”

“You think my opinion o’ it is merely disappointed?” Rucksack’s accent clipped the “th” sound into a mere “t.”

What’s his story? Branwen thought. Irish voice with a Tibetan face. Even here you don’t come across that every day.

“I’ve drunk horse piss that tasted better than that sour swill. I’d bet my two old swords there isn’t a worse keg in all the world.”

“What a safe bet,” Jade replied, “since you don’t have those swords anymore.”

“And how I wish I could find them and get them back.” Rucksack waved his hand. “Details, details. But off the point. How in the world could you put that keg on, Jade-bloody-London?”

Jade’s elbow moved so quickly Branwen almost missed the dig into Rucksack’s ribs.

Zara stared hard at the man. Then she smiled. “I hated to tell you, Jade,” she said, “since you were so nice to let us have our homebrew tasting here. But there is something off about the GPS. It’s not just the Mirror & Phoenix, though, and we know you’re the best in the city about storage and cleaning. At least the past year, every pint of GPS we’ve had hasn’t been right. But lately, and especially today, it’s just been terrible. The balance is off. The sourness isn’t just a note; it’s a whole damn out-of-tune band. And what’s up with the bitterness? There’s hardly any lately. It’s like they’re not getting enough hops for the brew.”

“I’ll talk to my supplier,” Jade said, coolness in her dark eyes. “In the meantime, I thought if my beer was unacceptable, Rucksack might be interested in your homebrew.”

Rucksack grimaced. “Now, come on, Jade, you know I only drink GPS.”

“Not at the moment you don’t,” Jade replied. “Though if you’re going to be so damn stroppy, I suppose I could always give you a Deep’s Special Lager on the house. Not like you pay for anything anyway.”

“The source o’ my credit always compensates you,” Rucksack replied. “Just because I have drunk horse piss doesn’t mean I want to repeat the experience.”

Zara laughed. “That would be preferable. At least horse piss would taste like something. Deep’s Special Lager is like eating snow. About all you can say for it is it’s cold.”

Rucksack stared hard at the sisters, then he smiled too. “All right, all right, Jade,” he said. “You’re trying to do me a kindness. Please forgive my rudeness. I’m not exactly at my best right now.”

For a moment Branwen thought Jade was going to smile. “Given the circumstances,” Jade replied, “I’ll give you a pass. But remember, you even being here is still… tentative, as far as The Management goes.” Branwen could hear the capital letters, as well as a lot unsaid in the silence that followed. “No one has forgotten Hong Kong,” Jade added. “And what just happened in India will be remembered for many years to come.”

“As, I hope, will be the fact that there continue to be years to come,” replied Rucksack. “But I promise I’ll be a nice lad.”

Jade chuckled. The lights of the pub danced on the dark skin of her high cheekbones. “Sure. And I’ll just go fall off the beer truck.”

“And what do you have to do with this beer?” Rucksack asked.

Jade smiled. “It’s all the sisters,” she replied. “It’s out of my influence.”

Rucksack said nothing, but his eyes widened. He and Jade stepped back as some men came to the table. “Ah,” Zara said, “your timing is perfect. We were just closing up.”

Branwen looked at her sister. “I thought we were—”

Zara poked her in the ribs, then handed over homebrew samples.

Branwen glanced back at Jade and Rucksack, who were talking about something, but too low for Branwen to hear anything except Rucksack saying he would leave the briefcase with her later. Then Jade and Rucksack stared hard at each other, as if reading something.

Zara and I have been coming to the Mirror & Phoenix for years. I’ve never seen Jade act like this before. Who is this guy?

Then Jade went back to the bar, and Rucksack walked up to the table. Closer to the man in black now, Branwen could see the pain and weariness in his face, an agony in the brown-black eyes like a dying fire begging for more fuel. “Are you okay?” Branwen asked.

“You’re kind to ask,” Rucksack replied, pulling up a chair, sitting down, and setting the briefcase on the table. “Suffice to say that I’ve had a rather busy day and it took more out o’ me than I expected.” He smiled. “Sometimes I forget I’m not as young as I was. That… sometimes things are different.”

Zara removed the empty sample cups and pulled off the tablecloth, revealing an ordinary pub table. “Well, it’s not GPS,” Zara said, “but we think it’s pretty darn close.” She picked up the empty glass Jade had left. Reaching under the table, Zara pulled out a large plain brown glass bottle and another empty pint glass. “The little keg is empty. Fresh one for you, sir.” She popped the cap and a hiss made Rucksack smile. Then Zara began to pour stout into both glasses.

“You pour it like GPS,” Rucksack said.

Branwen nodded. “My sister and I clone it at home.”

“That’s quite a challenge. I’ve encountered, shall we say, attempts at it, both commercial cons and homebrew hopefuls. No one has ever been able to clone GPS.”

Zara paused to let the initial pour settle. “And how would you know that?”

“GPS is a… passion of mine.” Rucksack nodded his approval at her pour.

“There’s a line between passion and obsession,” said Zara. “When it comes to GPS, which side are you on?”

“Never was much for lines,” Rucksack replied. “I’ve had my share o’ other beers, for what they’re worth, which combined doesn’t add up to one perfect pint o’ GPS. If you name a pub anywhere in the world, I can tell you how the GPS tastes there. Who pours it best, who rushes, who needs to clean their lines. I can tell you which brewery the keg came from. I’ve drunk GPS in just about every place in this world there is to drink it, for longer years that you’d care to count. It’s been quite a while since I was in London, and I’ve had a… difficult day. Let’s just say you have no idea how ready I am for that pint.”

“It’s almost ready,” Zara replied, topping up the pints. “You should know the pour can’t be rushed.”

Rucksack smiled, but he still trembled. “GPS has a secret,” he said, “something special that makes it unlike any other beer. Trouble is, no one knows.”

Zara let the full glasses settle again as the rich foamy head collected on top. “Don’t get all mythical and mystical on me. There is no secret to GPS. We just make damn good homebrew, and First Call makes GPS. They’re the biggest brewery in the world, and they know what they’re doing. Brewing GPS is all just impeccable ingredients, perfectly designed and fabricated equipment, and flawless brewing technique. That’s all you need to make a perfect GPS.”

“The First Brewer invented GPS thousands of years ago,” said Branwen, glaring at her sister. “There’s lots no one knows, but we’ve learned as much of the lore as we could. It’s hard to separate fact from myth.”

“That line is far blurrier than most people realize,” said Rucksack.

“So you think you know GPS?” Zara asked.

Rucksack nodded.

Zara handed over one pint of homebrew and raised her own. “Okay,” she said, “then tell me about this beer.”

Want more?

Pre-order THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY e-book from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway from a chance to win 1 of 10 signed paperbacks (US only):

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for the next-to-last sneak peek!




The sisters, the bartender & the beer: a sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairOnly a few more sneak peeks to go! THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for another sneak peek!

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

Sneak Peek: The sisters, the bartender & the beer

WHILE HER SISTER ZARA handed another small cup of beer across the small table to the old man in gray, Branwen watched a trembling man in black enter the Mirror & Phoenix and take a seat at the bar. A small briefcase, black with chromed steel edges and corners, clattered when he set it on the polished mahogany. He wiped sweat from his bald head. His skin was brown as Tibetan dirt, but nonetheless he looked pale, clammy, like a thin shell left after the insides had been hollowed out.

“I’d drink this every day,” said a woman Zara had given beer to earlier. “Na Grúdairí must be so proud.” She carefully pronounced the Irish word for “beer brewers” as “gruh-duh-ree.”

From their little table at the far end of the pub, Branwen could feel the tightness in the air around her sister, like the moment after a lightning strike before the forest catches fire. Zara’s short purple-and-yellow hair didn’t stand on end and her black combat-booted legs didn’t lash out in one of her vicious kicks or knee strikes, but her dark brown eyes, the same as Branwen’s, widened. The two women had been enjoying pints at this pub for as long as they could legally drink, but drinking those pints wasn’t what Zara ultimately wanted. The bartender, Jade London, had reminded Zara of that as they set up their homebrew sample table that evening. The people were just trying beer, Jade had said, not making pronouncements on Zara’s personal destiny.

Zara stared at the woman and said nothing, only gave a thin smile as the woman disappeared into the crowd that filled the pub. “I’m going to pour more samples,” she said, her face a little pale as she leaned over to move the white tablecloth and pull tasting cups from a box under the table. She set a cup under the brass spout of a squat black cylinder on the table. Brass piping gleamed in the pub lights. A thin glass vial running up the side told Branwen the pressurized miniature keg was getting low, but they could still pour a few more samples. Zara turned a four-point black handle above the brass spout, and dark beer flowed into the tasting cup, foaming as it landed.

Branwen tucked a wayward lock of black hair behind her ear. She tried not to stare at Jade the bartender, but it was always hard to look away. Jade was medium height, slender yet solid—Branwen had seen what one punch could do to a man twice as tall and three times as broad. Jade’s rich dark brown skin gleamed beneath the overhead lights. Her hair was cropped close, except for a long section near her forehead that flowed down her cheek to her jawline.

Wearing her usual white button-down shirt, black pants, and a blue bow tie, Jade the bartender didn’t take the man in black’s order, but moments later she set a pint of Galway Pradesh Stout in front of him, as if she had been expecting him. The black beer was the night sky poured into a pint glass; the thick white foam on top always made Branwen think of new snow. Relief passed over the man’s face. The tension in his body eased. Beer slopped on the bar as his shaking right hand lifted the pint. Even from where she sat, at her and Zara’s white covered table at the end of the pub, she could see that his left hand, clad in a black leather glove, was smaller than his right.

The man took a long, deep swallow of the stout. For eons Galway Pradesh Stout had been the world’s most popular beer. Today GPS was brewed on every continent except Antarctica—though many said it was drunk enough there to compensate.

For a moment he paused. Branwen knew he was savoring the stout’s smoothness, the interplay of roasted barley with a sharp bitterness of hops, underlaid by a tang that was a counterpoint to both flavors yet also a connecting thread. Branwen recognized the moment well, given all the times she and her sister had spent tasting GPS, examining every nuance of flavor, texture, aroma, and finish.

Sometimes I wonder if we should get some sort of best customer status, Branwen thought. But it’s all for one purpose, one goal—

A horizontal fountain of beer blasted out of the man’s mouth and showered the bar below.

Jade the bartender went over. Branwen couldn’t hear their words, but she had an idea of what was going on.

I thought Zara and I were the only ones who’d noticed.

After a heated exchange, Jade did something Branwen did not expect. She took away the pint. Then Jade the bartender pointed at the sisters.

Want more?

Pre-order THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY e-book from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

Enter the Goodreads Giveaway from a chance to win 1 of 10 signed paperbacks (US only):

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for another sneak peek!




The man in black: a sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. ClairIt’s time for today’s sneak peek of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY!

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY comes out June 16. Preorder today from:

Buy now from Amazon.com

Get it on iBooks

Buy now from Kobo

The book will also be available in trade paperback. Through June 11, you can enter for a chance to win 1 of 10 signed copies! (US only)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Lotus and the Barley by Anthony St. Clair

The Lotus and the Barley

by Anthony St. Clair

Giveaway ends June 11, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Tune in tomorrow for another sneak peek!

THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY

Sneak Peek: The man in black

THE MAN IN BLACK ran across the plaza, and the guards followed. After all, that’s what guards do. Especially if they want to continue doing things like receiving paychecks and having a pulse.

Outside the massive building, the clanging of the alarms faded in the distance, dominated by the sounds of a vibrant city at night, and stopped cold by glass that, it was rumored, could stand up to a grenade blast. Now the sounds of pounding feet and fast breathing were all that could be heard. That, and the usual cries of things like, “Stop, Faddah Rucksack, stop!” and “We will shoot!” and “Who the hell would’ve thought he could run so fast?”

The first cry made Rucksack chuckle. Did anyone ever follow such ridiculous commands?

The second cry was something he had known going in, but it still concerned him. Ever since the incident in Hong Kong years back—the memory still made Rucksack shudder—the world had decided it was tired of guns. It was rare you saw firearms, other than with specialized military units or certain hunters. But he couldn’t allow himself the luxury of surprise. Of course Guru Deep’s guards would be armed. Rucksack thought of the small briefcase he held by the handle in his gloved left hand. Given what he’d taken, he was surprised they weren’t shooting already.

At least he could find comfort and humor in the third remark. Despite the humid summer evening making sweat bead on his bald brown head and dampen his black silk clothes, Rucksack couldn’t help but smile. Not that he liked running, but you didn’t survive as long as he had without being able to leg it faster than the people trying to kill you. Rucksack believed the world was best experienced at a rambling walking pace, though briskness was acceptable if you found yourself late for happy hour. But at his age it was nice to know he could still outpace the young guards, despite how they kept fit both by Guru Deep’s PEFFER program, the Personal Everyday Fulfilling Fitness & Empowerment Regimen, and a soul-deep fear of what would happen if their physical conditioning was found not to be up to snuff.

He couldn’t let such thoughts distract him though. The smile faded to a line as firm as the horizon. The timing now was everything, and if it was off even by a few seconds…

Rucksack ran faster.

The Maya Plaza fanned out from the Lotus in all directions. In the daytime the park was serene and lovely, a bright public square with a dark private heart. Now the shrubs and trees were black. He’d planned the escape route to keep well away from the lighted paths, but now the trees were working against him. Dark branches snagged at Rucksack’s clothes, plucking at the knotwork buttons that ran down the center of his long untucked black shirt, scraping his neck above the mandarin collar, and pressing like tripwires over his shins where long ties wrapped the bottoms of his pants for extra silence.

The shouting voices were closer.

He ducked around a tree, pausing a moment to evaluate where the guards were. By now they were converging from all sides, with some surely heading to the edge of the park to trap him inside. But if he made one slight change to his course…

Rucksack started running again, leaping a row of shrubbery and dodging more trees.

A high root grabbed the toe of his boot.

Instead of resisting the change, Rucksack followed the new direction. He launched forward, tucking his body and holding the briefcase more tightly.

He winced. The damn left hand had been all but useless ever since The Blast. He would have preferred to hold the briefcase in his other hand, but he had to keep the right free, no matter what.

Soft grass cushioned his back as he somersaulted. With the momentum came a memory, an old power, an old trick that had always worked well. Momentum to energy, energy to force. The focus was everything, and he focused now, pulling the energy from the grass, the ground, and his body, compressing it, targeting it. When his feet hit the ground, as he stood from the roll, he unleashed the force inside. A tremor like an earthquake passed through the park. Men yelled. Some stumbled and fell.

Rucksack grinned. It was almost like the old days. More importantly, it bought him time—but he knew he’d pay for it later. Assuming there was a later.

He passed through the last row of trees. Beyond the green of the Maya Plaza, the steel, glass, and concrete of London surrounded the park. Night muted the colors, but come dawn the reds and oranges, the blues and greens of the city’s bright buildings would make the park seem dim and monochrome, as if it should try harder to enjoy itself.

The voices of the guards were so near now.

Rucksack listened more closely.

So was another sound—a low, deep rumble—the difference between escape and capture, or worse.

There was still time.

The first shot rang out. Behind him, bark exploded.

The guards closed in on him. Fifteen men, all taller and broader than he was. All with guns out. It had been decades since Rucksack had seen one, let alone fifteen.

Rucksack’s boots hit the sidewalk that ringed the Maya Plaza. A few meters of concrete were now all that separated him from escape. At the far edge of the sidewalk, a low metal railing marked the edge of one of London’s busiest roads.

The guards still yelled. Another shot ruptured the air. This one passed by his shoulder blades, ending in a loud ping-bop when it hit the lamppost nearby.

But Rucksack ignored the guards and the guns. He focused only on the sound, focused only on making the timing, the angle, the momentum just right. The approach, the moment, had to be perfect. He was nearly there, and from the sound, so was it.

Then, from behind a mailbox, a sixteenth man stood and blocked Rucksack’s path. He stood taller and broader than the others. Rucksack couldn’t see his face, only a smile, only a motion that could be anything—

The tremor had been taxing. Using so much energy now was risky, potentially too risky. But it was the only thing he could do if he wanted to escape.

He swung. His left hand roared with agony as the metal briefcase hit the man’s outstretched hand. Something clattered on the pavement, out of sight, but Rucksack kept hold of the briefcase. It was still latched. Everything depended on what was inside. But he was out of time. He didn’t stop, couldn’t stop—it was everything or nothing. Rucksack hadn’t survived what he had survived only to die now, hadn’t regained what he had lost just to lose it all now, on a dark sidewalk south of the River Thames, to some patsy guard who had no idea what he was really doing or what it really meant for him, or for London, or, for that matter, all the world—perhaps all of existence itself.

Rucksack’s swinging hand led his body into a spiral. As he turned he planted his left foot. He spun his body and his right leg rose, bent—and then one kick showed the sixteen men with guns what real firepower was.

The guard flew backward, but the power behind the kick had only begun to strike. As Rucksack lowered his foot to the ground, a flat smacking sound rolled past his ears as the man bounced off the low metal railing. But the sound was more than sound.

Behind him, guns clattered on pavement as the shockwave made the other fifteen guards double over or stumble back. The guard at the railing fell to his knees and his forehead thudded on the pavement. Rucksack ran forward. The other guards recovered quickly, some running toward him while others scrabbled in the shadows for their weapons. Men lunged. A hand slid off his shoulder. Fingernails grazed his wrist.

But that could not matter. He listened to the rumble again. It was here.

One guard’s fingertips glanced off a boot and smacked the concrete. One foot braced on the back of the hunched-over guard, Rucksack’s brown-black eyes winced at the blinding gaze that stared into his very soul. The railing clanged under the next step.

With a roar, Rucksack leaped toward a red wall.

Like a charging tiger, the terrible sound paused all hearts and breath. Then Rucksack was in midair, hanging over the pavement, flying toward a street teeming with speeding traffic.

The driver of the bright-red double-decker bus shifted gears and sped up, aiming to beat the stoplight before it changed. The engine’s rumbling was the sweetest sound Rucksack had ever heard. He reached out his right hand, grabbed the handrail just inside the open doorway at the back of the bus, and stepped on as lightly as a sunbeam, swinging the briefcase to his side.

The guards stood open-mouthed and watched the bus rumble away.

Grinning, Rucksack waved to them until the Maya Plaza and the Lotus were out of sight at last.

Then, unable to stand anymore, he collapsed on a seat and began to shake.

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Windfall Reading Series: Jordan Hartt & Lois Rosen, May 17, 2016, Eugene

Windfall Reading Series

As a member of the Lane Literary Guild, I love that Eugene has so much happening in its poetry and literary scene. Each month at the Eugene Public Library, featured poets and authors share their works with the public as part of the FREE Windfall Reading Series.

Lane Literary Guild2015-2016 Windfall Readings are held on the third Tuesday of the month, 5:30–7 p.m. The Eugene Public Library is at 10th and Olive in downtown Eugene.

Windfall Readers: May 17, 2016

  • Jordan Hartt
  • Lois Rosen

The Windfall project is made possible with support from City of Eugene Cultural Services. Other Windfall sponsors are the Lane Literary Guild, Eugene Public Library, Friends of the Eugene Public Library, and the Eugene Public Library Foundation.




What I’m doing now, May 2016

The Lotus and the Barley, a Rucksack Universe travel fantasy novel by Anthony St. Clair

Recently released cover of my fourth book, out June 16

Me in a nutshell

I live in Eugene, Oregon, and have been a self-employed professional writer since 2011—nearly 5 years. I’m the author of 3 (going on 4) travel fantasy books in my Rucksack Universe series. I write about craft beer. I help other people with their online content and marketing. Outside of my home office, I spend lots of time with my wife, son, and daughter. And I love to cook.

This month I’m…

Getting ready for the June 16 launch of my fourth Rucksack Universe travel fantasy book, The Lotus and the Barley. (You can pre-order the e-book now at Amazon, iBooks, and Kobo).

A lot of work goes in to launching a book. In addition to setting up the e-book file, I’ve been setting up the paperback files (and paperback layout always means tweaks to the wording so text flows better, which then has to be matched in the main file for the e-books). I’m setting up ads and giveaways, getting in feedback from advance readers, and planning various readings and events. At least, that’s just a few of the things underway from my 27-page launch kit 🙂

Knuckling down for lots of May article deadlines. In addition to the book launch, I have lots of article assignments due throughout the month, about everything from wedding registries to craft beer to construction. Have I mentioned that it’s very, very hard for me to ever feel bored?

Planning summer trips. My wife and I are both self-employed (she teaches Suzuki violin lessons and music classes for infants and toddlers at our Eugene Suzuki Music Academy). We have friends in Portland and Seattle we are long overdue to see, so we are planning a summer road trip. In the works for summer are also some camping trips, and various book signings, readings, and other author events. If you’d like me to come to your town, let me know.

Yoga once a week and walking over 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) each day, aiming for 13,000-15,000 steps (up to about 7 miles) at least a couple of days each week.

Pondering something big, but I’m still working on the decision and am not ready to say anything else yet.

Reading 2 books:

Here are a couple of recent articles I’ve published:

Always intrigued by other people’s stories, so feel free to email me: writer@anthonystclair.com




Windfall Reading Series: National Poetry Month, Apr. 19, 2016, Eugene

Windfall Reading Series

As a member of the Lane Literary Guild, I love that Eugene has so much happening in its poetry and literary scene. Each month at the Eugene Public Library, featured poets and authors share their works with the public as part of the FREE Windfall Reading Series.

Lane Literary Guild2015-2016 Windfall Readings are held on the third Tuesday of the month, 5:30–7 p.m. The Eugene Public Library is at 10th and Olive in downtown Eugene.

Windfall Readers: Apr. 19, 2016, National Poetry Month

  • Tim Shaner
  • Other Lane County poets

The Windfall project is made possible with support from City of Eugene Cultural Services. Other Windfall sponsors are the Lane Literary Guild, Eugene Public Library, Friends of the Eugene Public Library, and the Eugene Public Library Foundation.




What I’m doing now, April 2016

Yesterday’s office tidying now has my currently-reading stack much more available. #authorlife #reading #research

A photo posted by Anthony St. Clair (@rucksackpress) on

Me in a nutshell

I live in Eugene, Oregon, and have been a self-employed professional writer since 2011—nearly 5 years. I’m the author of 3 (going on 4) travel fantasy books in my Rucksack Universe series. I write about craft beer. I help other people with their online content and marketing. Outside of my home office, I spend lots of time with my wife, son, and daughter. And I love to cook.

This month I’m…

Proofreading the manuscript for THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY… ha ha, nope! The manuscript is DONE! I’ve set the release date… which I’ll be announcing shortly. In the meantime I’m working on the behind-the-scenes stuff around the release of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY, the fourth book in my Rucksack Universe series. Once I have a few particulars in place I’ll announce the release date and open up the e-book for pre-orders.

Getting ready to write a lot about craft beer. May is one of my favorite assignments for the Oregon Beer Growler: their Women in Brewing special issue. I’m going to be talking to an Oregon brewery owner who does a lot and is just amazing. I can’t wait to share more of her story.

Chuckling at the universe. I grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, and have lived in Eugene since 2000. One of my favorite breweries, Deschutes Brewing, grew up in Bend, Oregon, back before craft beer was cool. They recently announced that within the next few years, they are opening an East Coast facility… in Roanoke, Virginia. I’m talking with folks all about this development—after all, as Oregon beer writers go, I’m rather uniquely qualified to work on this story.

Pondering a summer book tour to various spots in the Northwest, along with some virtual tour events through Facebook, live video, and such. If you’d like me to come to your town, let me know.

Listening to about 40 episodes of The Introvert Entrepreneur Podcast. I recently heard Beth Buelow speak with Joanna Penn on a Creative Penn podcast interview. What Beth discussed in terms of introverts, how we work, and how we better move through professional life really spoke to me. I’m finding lots of ideas and insights in Beth’s podcast that I can put to work in my writing business. I’d recommend Beth’s podcast for any introvert, actually, not just entrepreneurs, but also introverts who work for others, run their households, whatever. It’s a really useful show.

Preparing more things to support support the release of THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY: collaborating with my cover designer, preparing Facebook ads, writing the book description, and setting up things like ISBNs, which some author-publishers cringe at but which I really enjoy. Then again, I also thought it was fun to fill out the forms for my kids’ birth certificates.

Walking over 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) each day, aiming for 13,000-15,000 steps (up to about 7 miles) at least a couple of days each week.

Trying to do 10 minutes of yoga a couple of times a week, though that’s been challenging of late. At least I’m doing more work in the garden and more walks with my kids to help compensate and be more active.

Drooling at Edinburgh, Scotland. I subscribe to the Travel with Rick Steves Podcast, and episode 439‘s discussion and listener Q&A about Edinburgh has me aching to make a return trip to one of my honorary homes. 2000 was the last time I was in Edinburgh, and I have a goal to make a return trip there with my wife and kids.

Reading lots of books, most notably:

Questioning my word, CONNECT, as Ali Edwards says of her annual One Little Word class. Last month’s visionboard was a lot more fun that I was expecting, and I got a lot out of visualizing things that connect me to my word (no pun intended). This month I’m writing some questions around my word, and My wife and I are taking the class together. This month Ali’s prompt is to build a visionboard for my word and how I want to interact with it. I’m using this challenge to help me improve on how I share and connect with others.

Here’s a recent article I’ve published:

Backside’s Got Roseburg’s Back – Oregon Beer Growler

More Oregon craft beer goodness is in the April 2016 edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.

I have a fair few other things in the works too, but as of when I’m updating my /now page, they aren’t up yet.

Always intrigued by other people’s stories, so feel free to email me: writer@anthonystclair.com




What I’m doing now, March 2016

Anthony St. Clair at the summit of Skinner's Butte in Eugene, Oregon

Anthony St. Clair at the summit of Skinner’s Butte in Eugene, Oregon

Me in a nutshell

I live in Eugene, Oregon, and have been a self-employed professional writer since 2011—nearly 5 years. I’m the author of 3 (going on 4) travel fantasy books in my Rucksack Universe series. I write about craft beer. I help other people with their online content and marketing. Outside of my home office, I spend lots of time with my wife, son, and daughter. And I love to cook.

This month I’m…

Leaked memo from the world's most dangerous company

Releasing special exclusive freebies for folks who join my mailing list. There’s a leaked memo about Faddah Rucksack from the company that wants to bring him down—and there’s also an exclusive sneak peek of my next book, THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY. If you’re interested in the Rucksack Universe, now’s a great time to check out my wee world of globetrotting myth, adventure, and intrigue.

Planning a non-fiction book about the business of being an author. I recently gave a talk about this topic, and it was really well-received, so I’m looking at how I can expand the talk into a book that helps authors manage the business side of things.

Proofreading the manscript for THE LOTUS AND THE BARLEY, the fourth book in my ongoing Rucksack Universe series. Proofing will be completed in March, and then I’ll be setting the release date. My cover designer is also underway on design concepts for the cover, and I’ll soon be in touch with advance readers who’ll get to read the book ahead of the release date.

Making a big task list of post-con followup stuff to do. My recent trip to the MystiCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Roanoke, VA, was a wonderful weekend. I learned about armor hickeys and how to better describe my characters so people can cosplay them. I met lots of new fans and became an expat member of the Roanoke Valley Whovians (and had a fascinating discussion about the future of the Doctor and the show Doctor Who). I also got to be on fascinating discussion panels about world mythologies (which I moderated), setting fantasy in the everyday world, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and worldbuilding. I’m also looking in to West Coast cons for me and my family to attend, and I’m…

Pondering how I would look in a Captain Mal costume (that’s Nathan Fillion’s Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly).

Evaluating next steps for Facebook Ads for my books. A recent ad didn’t perform the way I’d hoped, so I’m seeing what I can learn to do a better job on the next go-round.

Conducting research, interviews, and drafting for various articles about how breweries support their community, the ins and outs of charcuterie, and more.

Walking over 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) each day

Doing 10 minutes of yoga

Hiking up a nearby Skinner Butte with my kids. It’s a small hill, but it was still challenging to go up it with a 22-lb. child on my back. Well worth it though, especially for how much my 4-year-old son loved romping around the trail and summit.

Cooking the incredible meals that my wife plans (she doesn’t like the cooking, I don’t like the planning)

Looking longingly at maps.

Reading lots of books, most notably THE ALCHEMIST by Paolo Coehlo, Celtic Art: Symbols & Imagery Paperback by Miranda Green, and Celtic Britain and Ireland: Art and Society by Prof. Lloyd Laing and Jennifer Laing.

Walking with my word, CONNECT, as Ali Edwards says of her annual One Little Word class. My wife and I are taking the class together. This month Ali’s prompt is to build a visionboard for my word and how I want to interact with it. I’m using this challenge to help me improve on how I share and connect with others.

Here are some recent articles I’ve published:

Always intrigued by other people’s stories, so feel free to email me: writer@anthonystclair.com




Windfall Reading Series: Frank Rossini & Rosalind Trotter, Mar. 15, 2016, Eugene

Windfall Reading Series

As a member of the Lane Literary Guild, I love that Eugene has so much happening in its poetry and literary scene. Each month at the Eugene Public Library, featured poets and authors share their works with the public as part of the FREE Windfall Reading Series.

Lane Literary Guild2015-2016 Windfall Readings are held on the third Tuesday of the month, 5:30–7 p.m. The Eugene Public Library is at 10th and Olive in downtown Eugene.

Windfall Readers: Mar. 15, 2016

  • Frank Rossini
  • Rosalind Trotter

The Windfall project is made possible with support from City of Eugene Cultural Services. Other Windfall sponsors are the Lane Literary Guild, Eugene Public Library, Friends of the Eugene Public Library, and the Eugene Public Library Foundation.




Hi.

Anthony St. Clair - Travel Fantasy Author / Craft Beer Writer / Business Copywriter

Author and copywriter Anthony St. Clair has specialized in online content since 2000, blogged since 2004 and is the author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series.

FREE Sample

Check out this free sample of FOREVER THE ROAD

Anthony's third book, FOREVER THE ROAD, is a Best Books 2015 Fantasy pick from Library Journal's SELF-e, and a 2015 Oregon Book Award nominee.

Download your free sample to find out why Nth Degree's reviewer said this "high-stakes story, told with wit and compassion," left him "completely gobsmacked."

Rucksack Universe

Travel fantasy tales
of wit, adventure & beer

Forever the Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novel - learn more and buy now

Home Sweet Road by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

The Martini of Destiny by Anthony St. Clair, a Rucksack Universe Fantasy Novella - learn more and buy now

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