Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Blog Tour: The Hearts of Dragons by Josh Vanbrankle


The Hearts of Dragons, book two in the Dragoon Saga, is available NOW. To celebrate, I'm going to be spotlighting both books that kick off this epic new trilogy today!

The Wings of Dragons
From fantasy author Josh VanBrakle comes an epic new trilogy of friendship, betrayal, and explosive magic. Lefthanded teenager Iren Saitosan must uncover a forgotten history, confront monsters inspired by Japanese mythology, and master a serpentine dragon imprisoned inside a katana to stop a revenge one thousand years in the making.
Lodian history declares lefthanded people chaotic, dangerous, and devil-spawned, but Iren, the kingdom’s only known Left, thinks that’s an exaggeration. Sure, he loves pranking the residents of Haldessa Castle, but that’s harmless fun to get a little attention.
When one of his stunts nearly kills Lodia’s charismatic heir to the throne, Amroth Angustion, however, Iren confronts a no-win choice. To avoid execution, he must join a covert team and assassinate a bandit lord. The mission is suicidal, and Iren’s chances aren’t helped when he learns that his new katana imprisons a dragon’s spirit, one with a magic so powerful it can sink continents and transform Iren into a raging beast.
Adding to Iren’s problems, someone on the assassination team is plotting treason. When a former ally launches a blood-soaked plan to avenge the Lefts, Iren finds himself trapped between competing loyalties, and the fates of two nations will depend on his choice.
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Seven months ago nineteen-year-old Iren Saitosan saved the continent of Raa, but victory had its price: his Dragoon transformation left him unable to use magic. In a culture that relies on spells just to open doors, the impairment has crippled him. Unwilling to live dependent on his friend Minawë, Iren departs in search of a cure.

Meanwhile, Minawë faces a greater loss. She had to watch her mother’s murder, and she has yet to overcome her grief.

She will have to find the strength to move on, though, because a ruthless pair is hunting Iren. They know about the Dragoon, and they’ll stop at nothing to gain its power. If they succeed, they’ll plunge Raa into its most devastating war in a thousand years. Only Minawë can rescue Iren before that happens. But even if she finds him in time, a secret from the past may turn him against her.

About Josh VanBrakle:

Josh VanBrakle is the author of the perfectly logical combination - to him, anyway - of epic fantasy novels and environmental non-fiction.

Born in Pennsylvania, Josh grew up in Hershey, Chocolatetown USA. He now lives in the rural Catskill Mountains of upstate New York with his wife and two ill-behaved cats.

Josh grew up with a passion for both reading and the outdoors. His parents claim he learned to read using dinosaur books, because all the dinosaur names had phonetic spellings after them. From an early age he was telling and writing stories.

While the ideas for his first novel originated in high school, Josh set them aside to pursue a career in environmental protection. He might never have gone back to writing had it not been for a serendipity moment. He saw a newspaper article advertising workshops hosted by Shannon Delany, author of the 13 to Life series and the Weather Witch series. Thanks to those workshops, two years of hard work, and the incredible support of his family and coworkers, Josh's debut novel, The Wings of Dragons, was born.

Although Josh is now writing more than ever, he continues to work a day job at a local environmental nonprofit promoting rural land conservation. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, kayaking, nature photography, and generally being outdoors wherever and whenever possible.

To keep up to date with the latest in Josh's titles, including the Dragoon Saga, visit his website, www.joshvanbrakle.com, or follow him on Twitter @joshvanbrakle.


1. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I grew up in a family where reading and telling stories were ways of life. Living in a setting like that, I knew I wanted to do something with writing. Still, it wasn’t until 5thgrade when my father gave me a copy of The Hobbit that I knew I wanted to become an author. From the moment I read Tolkien’s words, it became my dream to have a book published someday.

2. What is your favorite book?

I have to name ONE? Well, for sheer number of times read, I would say my favorite is Raptor Red by paleontologist Robert Bakker. Bakker wrote this novel back in the nineties (right after Jurassic Park came out) about a dinosaur living in dinosaurian times. There are no humans in the book; the story is told from the perspective of a Utahraptor. I read the book first as a kid, and every couple years I pick it up again. The cover is torn, the pages are frayed, but each time I read it I discover something new.

3. How much of your own life do you put into your stories if any?

I draw a lot on my life experiences for my books, in particular for settings. By day I work as a forester, so I have some background knowledge of forest types, what grows in them, and how they function. I put that knowledge to work in my books to make my settings more realistic. It’s all in the background; the Dragoon Saga isn’t an environmental novel-in-hiding. But throughout the saga you’ll find reference to different forest types from around the globe.

For my characters, I don’t put as much from my own life into them. There are aspects of me or other people in them, but I don’t base my characters on actual people. I don’t want to lose a friend because their character does something they don’t like…or dies.

4. What is your dream location to live and which of your characters or characters from you favorite books would you take with you? 

I would love to live at the ocean. Forester though I am, nothing relaxes me quite like the sound and smell of the beach. As for who I’d take with me, that’s tough. From my own books, I think Minawë would be fun to hang out with. She knows how to laugh and have a good time, but she’s also a true friend who will help you out no matter how difficult the situation is. As for other authors’ characters, two that come to mind are Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson. They’re both kind of nerdy, but also willing to help others and passionate puzzle solvers. That pretty much sums me up too. I think we’d get into all sorts of trouble together.

5. Who are the authors that have inspired you?

I could list a lot of people here, so I’ll limit myself to two. The first and most obvious is Tolkien, because his books are what first got me interested in fantasy and publishing. The second and more important is Shannon Delany, author of the 13 to Life series and the Weather Witch series. She’s my role model, mentor, and dear friend. In 2011 she hosted a series of 10 writing workshops that I attended, and it was those workshops that got me back into writing and convinced me I could become a professional author. Even long after they ended, she’s continued to support and encourage me every step of the way.

6. What has been the best part of your self publishing journey?
The feedback from readers. I think a key part of growing as an author is hearing what others think of your writing. Before Kindle and the self-publishing revolution, that feedback was almost impossible to get, at least from someone who wasn’t biased (“my mother loves all my books; I must be an amazing writer!”). Thanks to self-publishing, I was able to hear from total strangers what they liked and didn’t like about my work, and I used that feedback to become a better writer. I don’t know if I would have been able to become traditionally published had it not been for the feedback I gained and the lessons I learned from self-publishing.

7. Do you know how your stories will end or does it come to you as you go?
Six months ago, I would have told you that I know how my stories will end. Before I write a draft, I outline the major plot turning points: what happens a quarter, midway, and at the end of a book. Because of that outlining, I had a good idea how both Wings and Hearts would end. But with Flames (the last book in the Dragoon Saga), it ended in a way I didn’t expect. I thought I knew from my outline how the series would wrap up, but then my characters went off and did something totally different.

8. From your own list of characters do you have a favorite?

I think Rondel is my favorite. She’s so complex, with such a long, deep, and tragic backstory. She wears so many masks that even I have trouble figuring out who she really is underneath them. Although the Dragoon Saga’s main character is Iren Saitosan, I feel like in many ways it’s a trilogy about Rondel and discovering who she is.

9. What other books do you have in the works? Can you give us a short description? 

Sure! I have two titles that I’m working on. The first is The Flames of Dragons, which will be the final book in the Dragoon Saga. That book is in production now, and it will be released sometime in 2016 (we haven’t nailed down a release date yet). I’m also working on a non-fiction book about forests inspired by my day job as a forester at an environmental non-profit. That will be my first “traditionally published” book; it’s being published by Countryman Press. We’re still nailing down the final text for it, but the tentatively titled Your Woodland: A Hands-on Guide to Doing Right by the Land You Love is also on the 2016 schedule.


One lucky winner will receive a signed paperback of both The Wings of Dragons AND The Hearts of Dragons! Enter below
The Hearts of Dragons Blog Tour Giveaway

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