Thursday, July 15, 2021

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Jade Talisman (The Jade Chronicles #2) by Alanna MacKenzie

The Jade Talisman banner
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Jade Talisman by Alanna MacKenzie. This blog tour was organized by Lola's Blog Tours. On my stop, I have an excerpt from the book as well as a great guest post from the author. There's also the tour wide giveaway for a chance to win both books in the series. Be sure to visit the other stops on the tour for more content. Enjoy!
The Jade Talisman book cover
Title: The Jade Talisman
Series: The Jade Chronicles #2
Author: Alanna MacKenzie
Publication Date: March 30th 2021
Print Length: 250 pages
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Fantasy

A talisman. A song. A gift that bends time, and alters the course of destiny itself.

It is the year 2762 in the Empire of Khalendar, and AI Masters rule the civilized world, striving to crush all dissent. But they have not yet managed to quell the Jade Rebellion or its leader, Walter Saltanetska. The rebels have sailed beyond the Empire’s borders to the infamous isle of Vei’arash. Their mission is to find animal spirits exiled long ago by the AI Masters, and return them to the mainland. With any luck, the spirits will strengthen the fading magical powers of their allies, the Western Mages, and join the battle against their oppressive rulers.

As the rebels plunge deeper into the jungle, physical laws are upended. The plants and animals of the rainforest are inextricably linked to divine beings. An ancient shaman-god entrusts Walter with the Jade Talisman, an enchanted gemstone that warps the basic rules of time and space.

The Talisman allows Walter to gaze into a mesmerizing labyrinth of future possibilities. But the visions it offers up are troublingly dark, giving Walter insight into the potential fates of himself and his loved ones. This gift proves to be a crushing burden, and Walter desperately longs for an ordinary life. But there is no going back…

The gripping sequel to The Jade Rebellion, The Jade Talisman explores whether nature and spirituality are capable of persevering in a world dominated by the cold logic of artificial intelligence.

In the lobby of the apartment building, Elaine deliberately avoided eye contact with the concierge, who smiled and nodded at her as she passed him by. The hovering spirit of Walter exited the building with her. It was a clear but crisp autumn day; the wind was gusty, and the trees lining the streets were ripe with leaves the color of burnished copper. Elaine drew her coat tightly around her body, shivering as she stepped outside.

The woman now began walking quickly, each of her movements infused with purpose. After a few blocks, Elaine arrived at a train station that was crowded and bustling with people going about their daily business. When the hovering spirit observed the throng of people more carefully, he could see that it was comprised primarily of humans, but also included many mixed-race peoples, who had actuators and elastic nanotubes embedded onto their arms, legs, and faces. It soon became apparent that there were robots everywhere, scattered throughout the masses like clues buried in a puzzle. Most of the guards and officers at the train station were uniformed AI Fighters, and there were a few higher-ranked AI Masters. The Masters could be distinguished from the Fighters by their sleeker, more sophisticated humanoid bodies and red badges emblazoned with white diamonds: the official symbol of Crystal City.

The train station itself was a large public square surrounded by screens projecting lists of dozens of cities and villages in Khalendar and beyond, along with the arrival and departure times of the trains. The hovering spirit noticed that each screen appeared to be devoted to a particular region, and that Elaine was perusing a list related to the region “Barrens Reserve IV.” Elaine appeared to have found the platform for her train and hastily walked toward it, keeping her head lowered but her eyes alert. She glanced around nervously, deliberately avoiding clusters of AI guards and trying to blend in amongst the crowd as much as she could.

When Elaine arrived at the correct platform, she impatiently checked an old-fashioned golden watch she kept in her coat pocket. There were a few other people scattered around her, but the general sparseness of the crowd suggested that she had arrived early. After what seemed like an agonizingly long wait, a silver bullet train finally appeared in the distance, snaking its way rapidly toward the platform. The hovering spirit saw that Elaine was now more than mildly anxious; her brow was sweating profusely, and she was shifting back and forth on her feet in impatience. The crowd had grown substantially by this point, and everyone jostled each other as they lined up along the train tracks. The spirit saw Elaine’s eyes widen as she spotted, through a clearing in the dense multitude, blue-vested AI Fighters arriving at the station: Crystal Militsiya. These heavily armed cyborg cops were equipped with state-of-the-art facial recognition software and were hard-wired to detect criminals based on their appearance. When a bystander witnessed a crime, or suspected that one had occurred, they would report a description of the suspect’s appearance to an employee at the central police station, who would input the description into a database and send out a unit of these trackers to hunt down the criminal. The hovering spirit of Walter understood this intuitively, without knowing why.

The cyborg cops stopped momentarily at the entrance to the station to converse with the guards selling train tickets. One of the guards pointed in Elaine’s direction and the police followed his lead, marching briskly toward the platform where Elaine was standing. Fortunately for her, by now the crowd was very thick, and Elaine could conceal herself behind the wall of people standing in front of her. The train then suddenly arrived, blocking her completely from the Militsiya’s line of sight. Trembling, Elaine stepped impatiently onto the train, nearly knocking over a young child in front of her. The young girl’s mother began to chastise Elaine, calling her a “kayensta,” the Khalendi word for rude wh*re. Elaine did not turn around to acknowledge the woman, and upon entering the train, she immediately made her way toward the washroom and locked herself inside.

The hovering spirit followed her, effortlessly floating through the walls of the locked washroom. Elaine glanced in the mirror at her own exhausted face—the dark under-eye circles, the grey hairs, and the wrinkles on her forehead and around her mouth. She heaved a long, unsteady sigh as she opened her briefcase and carefully removed a black bag containing a brunette wig, a fake adhesive nose, and an elastic band. After tying up her long red hair with the band, she covered her head with the wig and meticulously tucked any stray hairs underneath it. She then removed another pouch from the briefcase which contained foundation, lipstick, blush, and eyeliner. Acting quickly, with trembling hands she placed the adhesive nose over her own and began applying the makeup onto her face, covering up the puffy bags under her eyes and bringing warmth and vibrancy to her pale cheeks and lips. When she was finished, she looked like a different person entirely, younger and prettier than the exhausted woman who had entered the bathroom.

When she left the washroom, Elaine tried to appear casual as she walked down the aisle to find an unoccupied seat. After a painful few minutes of searching, she finally spotted one next to a sleeping elderly man who was snoring quietly. As she settled in and tucked her briefcase under the seat in front of her, she could hear a man’s voice projecting over the loudspeakers: “Alert, alert: criminal spotted at Vennyest train station. Remain calm and seated while the train is searched for the suspect.”
The Jade Rebellion
“A reckoning. A rebellion. The worlds of artificial intelligence and ancient magic collide.”

The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie is the first book in The Jade Chronicles series. It’s currently discounted. You can get the paperback for only $7.99 and the eBook for only $2.99!

Alanna Mackenzie
Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails.

- Who or what is your writing muse?

The word ‘muse’ derives from the ancient Greek word ‘Mousai’ which means to ‘have in mind’. There were nine muses in Greek mythology, and one of them was Euterpe, the muse of music. I think that if I had to choose one of the Greek muses as a source of inspiration for my writing, it would be her. Ever since I was a child I’ve been drawn to music as a way to express creativity, to relax the mind, and to tell stories. I was classically trained as a violinist but I gradually moved away from a purely classical repertoire to embrace other genres such as Gypsy and Roma swing, Italian folk music, and Celtic fiddle music. One of my latest interests is movie soundtrack music from the Lord of the Rings. I am also learning to play the guitar and gravitate towards folk and jazz music. While I have no personal experience in this area, I am fascinated by Egyptian, Arabic, and Indian songs and instruments.

How does my interest in music translate to my writing? It’s a complicated process, but music inspires my writing in a number of ways. Firstly, the lyrics of a particular song can spark ideas for writing. The first time I thought about writing The Jade Chronicles series, I was commuting on a bus to work, listening to a band called Daughter which is one of my favorite artists. There were two songs in particular that helped to inspire the concept of the series. The first is called “Human”, with the following lyrics in the chorus: “Underneath the skin there’s a human/ Buried deep within there’s a human/ And despite everything I’m still human/ But I think I’m dying here.” This inspired me to visualize a world where humans are fighting, both literally and figuratively, against non-human artificial intelligence. They are striving to retain remnants of their humanity in a world which is stripped of its humanity, a world where conformity is the overarching law, where the essential traits that make us human like our creativity, our dreams and aspirations, and our memories, are being actively cleansed out of us.

The second Daughter song that inspired The Jade Chronicles is called “Run”. It’s about two people who are on the run from something, perhaps they have broken the law and they are trying to evade the authorities; there is no real explanation for why they are on the run in the song itself. They are in love with each other, and they have little else than their love for comfort and safety. To me, the song represents something deeper, it represents a question about morality and the idea of who dictates what is moral and what is not. When I listen to the song I think of two people living in an authoritarian society, ruled by fascists and dictators, who have breached the technical rules of their society by challenging it in some way, but they have done what they think is right. They have no choice but to run away, because they are in trouble with the authorities, but they have a feeling that they haven’t done anything wrong: “I don’t know what we’re doing/ I don’t know what we’ve done/ But the fire is coming/ So I think we should run.” It inspired me to write about Walter, who broke the rules imposed by the government and his society by prematurely expose details of a nefarious plan to displace villagers in order to build a diamond mine. From that point onwards, he and the person he exposes the secret to – his lover Elaine – are not safe in the society they live in. But from a moral perspective, he hasn’t done anything wrong; he’s done what he knows in his heart to be the right thing. I think that there are so many examples from history and even from the world today where rules and laws apply in an unfair manner, and in opposition to morality and ethics. Legal positivists would say that there is no necessary correlation between law and morality, but not all legal philosophies accept this (like the Radbruch Formula). Laws allowed deplorable acts to be perpetuated by the Nazi German state and its military, but those laws were later found to be so contradictory to basic principles of justice that they were regarded by German courts as void. The question then arises as to whether people should pay attention to what their own moral compass is telling them rather than blindly following the rules. I think that if we have any interest in justice, we should be paying attention to morality and not just rules, and studying the intersection between law and morality.

I know it’s a bit of a stretch to assume that the song ‘Run’ is about what I interpreted it to be, but I think that is the beauty of music. Music is so malleable and flexible that it can mean whatever the listener interprets it to mean, in a similar way to poetry. I don’t think any two people interpret the same song or poem in exactly the same way. The amazing thing about music is that it doesn’t just appeal to the logical side of our brains, it doesn’t give us an instruction manual for how to write a book, but it sparks emotions and ideas inside of us that set the wheels in motion for us to create something new. In fact, it’s been noted by researchers to be one of the best forms of emotional communication. Music is also so compatible with storytelling; not only can lyrics of a song tell a story, but the intonations and patterns in music are similar to the characteristics of human speech. These so-called ‘paralinguistic features’ make songs sound like stories even when they have no words accompanying them.

Another property of music that is inspirational is its ability to transport you outside of your comfort zone and your culture. Like travel, listening to music from a distant country opens your minds to different ways of expression. As I write about a lot of different gods and goddesses from Eastern mythological systems, listening to music from places like Egypt and India helps to set the tone for my writing.

Whenever I hear a song that inspires my writing, it helps me to visualize the chapter or scene unfold in my head while listening to that song. I can then translate the visualized scene onto the page, and to create work that will hopefully inspire others.
Three Winners: Paperbacks of both The Jade Rebellion and The Jade Talisman by Alanna MacKenzie
Two Winners: Paperback of the Jade Rebellion by Alanna MacKenzie
(US/Canada only.)
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  1. The cover is really good, Fingers crossed, I want to win this so badly.

  2. Awesome cover! Sounds like a great book!

  3. Both book covers really make you think about the future and the part which technology plays along with AI.