Oceans of Sand is coming out NEXT WEEK!! Can you believe it? Ahhhhh it's so unreal. My personal copies arrived yesterday and I got a little emotional. It's a beautiful thing to hold your book for the first time. Watch the video here :)
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Below is your first chapter sneak peek. You, my beloved readers, get an early look at the first chapter of Oceans of Sand! Happy reading, and thank you so much for your support. It means the world to me.
Oceans of Sand First Chapter
Chapter 1: Norah
The ocean of sand is endless.
Everywhere I look, orange-gray sand waves peak and crash, spraying particles into the air. Soft flecks blow against my shins. The chill of the desert night squeezes my lungs with every breath.
I am a tiny dot in the center of the universe, a small being in infinity.
I glance back at Zadock. He sits at the stern of the boat, steering us by Shaking the waves. Sand swirls through his fingertips. Shaking is his sand gift, and it allows him to control the sand and guide the boat forward. I can’t Shake the sand. Without him, I’d be helpless out here.
The moon rises on the eastern horizon, an enormous white orb conquering the sky. Her gravity is what pulls the sand, churns it into waves.
We crest another swell of sand. For a moment, all is still. I smile. Then we plunge down the other side, and my stomach drops. I grip the sides of the boat. Sand splashes over the edge and onto the bench where I’m sitting.
I turn to Zadock. “You doing ok back there?”
“I’m just fine, thank you, Norah.” He grins. Zadock and I have been best friends our whole lives, but it’s only recently that my heart flutters when he smiles. His hair is the color of the desert at dusk, his skin tanned from the sun. Like me, Zadock wears a soft camehl hair coat to keep warm. “Do you still know where we’re going?” he says. “I can’t see the plateau anymore.”
“Of course.” I tilt my head to look up at the stars. The moon blocks my view of half the sky, but I still locate several constellations to navigate by. The shower of glittering lights takes my breath away. Clusters of stars give the telltale sign of distant galaxies, and a hazy purple smear streaks across the sky. A nebula, giving birth to more stars.
Zadock follows my gaze. “Wow. It’s incredible.”
I find the Haridian star in the foot of the Sleeping Fox constellation. I point forward and slightly to our starboard side. “The plateau is that way.”
“All right. Thanks, Nors.” Zadock smiles and moves his arms in a circular pattern. The sand beneath the boat obeys, adjusting our heading. “I’ve got to get home soon, or Potah will feed me to the scorpions.”
I frown. I wish we could stay out here forever. These stolen moments sailing the sands with Zadock are the best parts of my life.
Out here, I’m not broken.
“Yeah, ok. Let’s head back.” I lean over the railing and touch the sand. It’s a fine powder, and it’s still warm from baking in the sun all day. I let it slide through my fingers.
I catch Zadock watching me. “Do you miss him?” he asks.
I pull my hand in. “Yeah.”
When my potah died three years ago, everything changed. The light went out of Motah’s eyes. The joy went out of our home. And a week later, the unnatural famine that still plagues the villages today began. The plants just started to fail. It was like the desert mourned him, too, and it never stopped.
Potah. It used to be him taking me out to sail. Now, Motah refuses to even look at this boat, let alone allow me to sail it. If she knew we were out here, she would not be happy. Sailing the ocean of sand isn’t exactly safe. The sand has a pulling, sucking quality to it. That was how Potah died—he fell off the boat during some rough waves. The sand towed him under, and I never saw him again.
As far as Motah knows, the Norah never leaves the boathouse on the edge of our plateau.
Even with the danger, I can’t stay away. I love this too much. Potah used to take me on trading voyages to other villages, but Zadock and I can only steal an hour of sailing here and there whenever we can, just for the pleasure of it.
In the distance, our home plateau juts into the skyline, and on top of it, the village of To’Rahn. The black outline is stark against the orange and purple hues mixing in the darkening sky.
And then I see something on the horizon that I don’t expect.
“Zadock!” I lean forward. “Is that…?”
Zadock squints and pushes hair out of his eyes. “Nors.” His face falls. “That’s a sandstorm.”
I gasp. It’s clearer now. The gray-orange sand is churning into one enormous cloud. The wind will pick up, and the speed of the sand will increase until it stabs like a thousand tiny knives. If we’re out here when it hits…
“We’ve got to get back,” I say. “Now.”
Zadock pushes his hands forward, propelling the Norah toward the plateau, but I can already tell we’re not going to make it. The storm is moving too fast. It’s going to engulf To’Rahn, and then it’s going to hit us.
Sheer panic overwhelms me and drives away any clear thought. Our boat will be overturned, we’ll be sucked into the ocean of sand—
“Norah! What do we do?” Zadock cries. The sandstorm rages closer. In an eyeblink, it devours To’Rahn.
There was so little warning. I hope the weather wardens were able to get everyone inside in time. They know when a sandstorm is forming. I checked the schedule before Zadock and I left—this sandstorm was not expected.
I’ve never been caught out in a sandstorm before, not once during all the times Potah took me out with him.
We’ve got minutes until it hits us.
“Zadock!” I shout over the wind whistling past my ears. Particles of sand whip through the air, stinging my eyes. The boat has a small hold, a crawlspace beneath the deck for storage. We might be protected down there, but if the boat is overturned, we’d be trapped. What to do? “Encase us in sand. The boat should stay afloat, but you have to cover us.”
Zadock’s gaze flicks from me to the storm, and then he nods. “Ok.” Zadock drops his control of the boat, and we pitch and rock. I fall forward and stumble into Zadock, and he catches me in strong arms. My heart leaps into my throat.
Stop it, Norah. You’re in a crisis.
I push myself away. We sit cross-legged, facing each other, as close as we can be without touching. Zadock brings up sand around us in a swirling cascade, forming a dome. The darkness is smothering, and the rage of the wind is muffled.
The storm hits.
An enormous force punches the boat. I fall into Zadock’s sand wall, but it holds strong. The waves toss us up and down, and my stomach lurches. We’re ok. We’re alive. As long as Zadock can keep it up.
It hits me that there is just a thin wall of sand between me and death. My heart thunders in my chest, feels like it’s pressing into my throat. My breathing speeds up. We’re going to die. We’re going to be smothered by the sands just like—
Zadock’s hand grabs onto my arm, and I choke back a sob. The panic ebbs.
“Norah.” His voice is barely audible over the rage of the wind outside our dome. “We’re ok.”
I nod. I focus on taking deep breaths, one at a time. In and out. My eyes adjust, and I can make out the outline of Zadock’s face. The boat leaps up then slams down, and my stomach rolls. The sand continues to beat at our meager shelter, and my knees bump into Zadock’s with the jolting of the waves.
Sandstorms can last hours. Sometimes only minutes. How long can Zadock keep this up?
“Norah. Norah.” Zadock’s hand runs up and down my arm. I shiver. “It’s ok. I’m here.” He pulls me closer to him, and I practically fall into his lap against his chest.
My breathing slows, the pounding in my heart lessens. I bury my face in him, trying to hold back tears. I’m ashamed. I want to be strong.
Zadock’s grip tightens around my back. “You’re safe. I can hold this up for a long time.”
I nod. Zadock holding me like this feels strange and amazing. I can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to realize how good-looking…how adorable…how perfectly wonderful he is.
Sand dusts my head and arms, and I lean away from Zadock and press my hand against the grit of the wall. It’s squishy and soft, and I hurry to pull back before my hand breaks through. The dome is loosening. Zadock is losing his grip on it.
Fear knots in my throat, constricts my chest. “You—you can do this, Zadock. You can hold it.” The muscles of his arms quiver around me.
This should be easy for him. He’s the strongest Shaker our village has ever known. Why?
My breath catches.
I loosen my grip on his shirt and press away, leaning back until I touch the sand behind me.
Whatever I’m feeling, whatever he’s feeling, he cannot feel it right now.
Love weakens sand gifts.
Love can lessen the power of a sand gift in the moment, and too much love overall can make someone lose their sand gift forever.
Is that what’s happening? Could Zadock really feel that way about…me?
My heart leaps into my throat again, this time for another reason. But terror soon replaces whatever that was.
“You ok?” Zadock asks.
Despite how warm the air is, I miss his arms around me. “I’m ok. You?”
“Just fine.” His voice comes out strained.
I close my eyes, shutting out the stifling blackness. The boat jolts, and a cry escapes my lips. My breath comes in rapid gasps.
“Norah,” Zadock says. “It’s going to be ok.” He touches my cheek.
Tremors go through the sand behind me.
I savor the warmth of his skin against mine even as the wall behind me shifts and cracks.
My voice comes out in a whimper. “Please don’t touch me.”
He snatches his hand back, and a piece of my heart breaks. The wall of sand behind me resolidifies in an instant.
I long to tell him how I feel, even though that would be disastrous. “I’m sorry, I—”
“No.” He clears his throat. “You’re right.”
I study his face in the dimness. It’s hard and determined, focused on holding up the sand.
It hits me how completely I rely on Zadock while we’re out here. He steers the ship, he moves the sand, and now, he’s protecting me from the sandstorm. I couldn’t do this without him.
I can’t manipulate the sand. I can’t move the boat. If I had been out here by myself when this sandstorm hit, I would’ve been dead in minutes.
Because I have no sand gift.
And, as far as I know, I’m the only one.
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