Spotlight, Excerpt, & Author Interview: The Legend of Black Jack + Giveaway

Legend of Black Jack blog announcement

THE LEGEND OF BLACK JACK COVER
The Legend of Black Jack
by A.R. Witham
Genre: YA Fantasy
Intended Age Group: 12+
Pages: 458
Published: May 17, 2022
Publisher: Nepenthe House (Self Published)

Content/Trigger Warnings Shown on page: Child abuse (foster mom hits main character), Child abduction (main character kidnapped by monster)
Alluded to: Child neglect (foster mom ignores her wards)


Thrilling fantasy adventure debut from Emmy-winner A. R. Witham.
Jack Swift can tell you every element on the periodic table, recite Treasure Island verbatim, and would remember in perfect detail every word you’d ever say to him. He has been alone for a long time, so he has buried himself in books, using them to plan his escape.

But no textbook could ever prepare him for the land of Keymark.

At 3:33 a.m. on his fourteenth birthday, Jack is kidnapped by a hideous monster to another sphere of existence. Now there are two moons in the sky, and he is surrounded by grotesque creatures and magical warriors training for battle. They want the impossible: Jack must use his abilities to save a life or be trapped in this bizarre world with no chance of rescue.

Jack doesn’t have secret magic, a great destiny, or any experience.
So why do they all expect him to become a legend?

Doogie Howser, MD • Nonendangered Rhinos • Legen…Wait for it…Dary

Amazon / Goodreads


Excerpt:

Chapter 4
BLOOD
Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.
—Hippocrates

The operating room was anything but sterile. The floor was pounded-down dirt, the walls were splintered wood that collected dust by the handful, and the smoking fire in the corner exhaled nearly as much soot into the room as up the chimney. It was dark, it was dirty, and it put the odds against Jack Swift before he even began.

Jack had two concerns, other than the obvious: that Xiang-lo would die the moment he touched him. The first worry was the anesthesia. Dr. Richards had told him repeatedly that in almost any surgery, the drugs used to put the patient to sleep were by far the most dangerous part of a procedure; more men had been killed by a tiny slip in the amount of medication used than from any mistake a surgeon made. The gas passers, as Richards called them, were the background heroes of the operating room, and kept their patients walking the thin line between sleep and death.

Jack had made the calculations for the correct amount of anesthesia, but in the end, it proved unnecessary. Memphis would keep Xiang-lo asleep. Such majik was well within the monster’s mastery, said Valerian, and keeping Xiang-lo out of consciousness and out of pain would be the rhino’s task during the procedure.

The second concern was more personal.

“I don’t want to see his face.”

Valerian nodded as if he had been expecting the request. “That has been arranged.”

Good. So the knight understood. “Not just his face,” continued Jack. “I don’t want to see any part of him other than his belly on the right side. There are medical sheets in Memphis’s bag; cover him with those. His chest, his legs, but especially his face. I don’t want to see it.”

Surgery was just like carpentry. Jack had to remember that. But the only way to treat a man like a block of wood was to remove his face, remove his personality, remove any trace of humanity from him…and even then, he would still be a Pinocchio.

If everything went well, Jack would love to hear about Xiang-lo, about who he was, what his dreams were, and how he’d lived his life. But right now, all Jack wanted to know, all he could know, was where to cut.

Besides, some darker part of his mind chided. You don’t want another face haunting your dreams when you kill him.

They had followed his instructions perfectly. The patient (always the patient, never a person) was laid out on a table, every inch of him covered in thin green medical sheeting, save for his white belly, which shone like a spotlight in the darkened room. Memphis stood at the man’s (no) patient’s head, his massive hands on either side of the bump under the sheet, murmuring strange words softly in the dark. There were other people there, hidden by the surgical masks that Jack, through Valerian, had ordered them to wear. They were silent, standing like statues, waiting. The grey man himself stood aside as Jack entered the room. The knight’s worn face was eerily calm.

Jack walked to the patient. There were the tools, laid out on a wooden stool near the operating table, still in their sterile plastic containers, just waiting to be used. The scalpels, the forceps, the clamps. Cold steel ready to plunge into the man’s warm belly.

The belly. Soft and fatty and pale, vulnerable as a newborn baby.

The boy put on the thin latex surgical gloves, feeling them snap over his wrists, then donned the mask.

Jack swallowed.

Memphis had been thorough if nothing else. Every kind of surgical tool he could possibly need was readily available, from clamps and forceps to ointments and swabs to needles and syringes of every kind. Dr. Swift’s office must have been completely bare by the time the thieving rhinoceros was done.

The first step was the intravenous drip. Valerian’s assistant, Kenyan, had been meticulous in following Jack’s instructions for preparing the room, but this was something Kenyan could not manage herself. The most extensive experience Jack had known with the art of phlebotomy was sticking a needle into the skin of an orange. That was practice. This was different.

He extended the metal stand, screwed it in place, took the plastic intravenous bag from the table, and hung it from the hook. Jack removed the sheet from the patient’s arm, thanked

God the patient had good veins, and took hold of the butterfly needle at the end of the IV tube.

He told himself it was no different from an orange. In the end, it wasn’t. The needle pierced the vein and found a home, easing healthy fluid into the man’s—patient’s circulatory system.

And now there was nothing left to do but surgery.

Jack found the bottle of Betadine, the worldwide standard in surgical antiseptic, resting by the tools. He opened the bottle, poured the orange liquid onto a sterile cloth, and quickly swabbed the open space between the green surgical sheets. The skin turned darkish orange as he cleaned it, and suddenly the skin didn’t belong to a man—it belonged to Jack.

He found the container of latex sheathing and tore the package open with a rip that, in the silent room, sounded like a roar. He removed the adhesive strips, settled the transparent latex window over the area where the incision would be made, and stuck it firmly to the patient’s skin. It was under that window, that minuscule six square inches of the universe, that would be the sole focus of his entire being for the next several minutes.

Or the rest of his life.

Those six inches of skin, and the one tiny little freckle that lay within them.

Jack found himself staring at the freckle. There was something about it that unnerved him. In a perfect world, there would be no freckle. It should be just a sheet of plain white patient skin masked in Betadine. But there was something about the imperfection, about the tiny, little dark spot, that made it impossible for those six inches of flesh to belong to anything other than a man.

He stepped back.

“I…I can’t do this.” He shook his head, flexing his fingers desperately. “There isn’t…there isn’t enough light,” Jack continued. “In an operating room, this should be lit up with very, very bright lights. I can’t—I’m not going to be able to see inside—”

His desperate sentence was cut off as Memphis raised one hand from the bump under the sheet and changed his tone. A tiny globe of white light appeared over Xiang-lo’s belly. It started small, no bigger than a bulb on a Christmas tree, but slowly grew to the size of a golf ball, blazing like a Hollywood klieg light. It rotated, and the area facing Jack darkened like the hood over a lamp, giving him room to work without being blinded.

The boy swallowed, his mind racing, his fingers twitching. In the harsh light, motes of dust and soot danced in the air, falling from the ceiling, changing their course with every breath, each one shining bright in the rays of the blazing, hovering orb.


Author Interview:

1. Tell us a little about how this story first came to be.
I wanted to drop a Muggle into a magical world and see how they handled magical challenges with no magical skills. Jack’s only gift is an extraordinary memory which, for him, is more a curse than a blessing, because he relives the worst moments of his life in perfect detail. All he’s got is his wits and his guts. In the beginning, like all of us, he’s powerless. But as the story progresses, Jack finds ways to leverage what he knows to survive. If you can’t be powerful, be smarter than the other guy. I think that’s something a lot of clever people can relate to.

2. What, if anything, did you learn when writing the book?
I learned there is very little difference between children and adults. Children are just smaller. Adults whine, make up dumb lies, get hangry, and make ridiculously stupid decisions…the only difference is how often it happens. When you’re telling a coming-of-age story, you look for the level-ups, the things that mark that invisible bridge from childhood to adulthood, and they’re much more subtle than I anticipated. Children know a lot more than we give them credit for. The true separation between us is how much responsibility we’re able to carry.

3. What surprised you the most in writing it?
I was struck by how attached I got to the characters. They’re just made-up pretend people, but when something bad happens to them, I really feel badly for them. I’m used to this in books that I read, but I wasn’t expecting it in a book I wrote. Authors create feelings out of absolutely nothing but it’s weird when you’re the one who created an emotion, then it comes to get you. All those emotions makes killing them tough.

4. If it’s not a spoiler, what does the title mean?
The Legend of Black Jack has different layers to it. On the surface, I wanted it to feel like a classic adventure story that you hear the title and think, yeah, that sounds like it might be a lot of fun. The cover of the book is designed with a keyhole in the side, which is meant to make you feel like it is an old leather-bound tome with dangerous magic inside…so dangerous it needs to be locked up. On a deeper level, The Legend of Black Jack is the idea that legends and stories can guide our way and shape who we become. Before Jack ever gets to the land of Keymark, there is already a legend of this other guy, and when they mistake him for the man from that story, that’s where the real fun begins.

5. Were any of the characters inspired by real people? If so, do they know?
Jack is based in part on my dad. His love of science and medicine, his attachment to his own father, his distance from his mother, the importance of family, and the way he approaches problems from a place of logic. Django Barón was created around the idea of a bullfighter named Ignacio Sanchez Mejias, long since dead. Abrahim Qin is based on an old karate teacher I had when I was ten who would absolutely beat the hell out of us, then list in detail each thing we had done wrong. Every class ended with, “No excuses for bruises.”

6. Do you consider the book to have a lesson or moral?
It’s the classic coming-of-age story. It hits on the emotion of being helpless and powerless to shape our future, subjected to the will of powerful and incomprehensible forces. Jack starts out, like we all do, with nothing of his own, subjected to the will of others, no say in what happens, tossed like a leaf on the breeze. But at some point he makes a stand for what he wants, and uses his mind to leverage himself into a position where he gets to make real decisions. It’s a story about what it takes to go from being a child to becoming an adult, and the sacrifices that are necessary to take that final step.

7. What is your favorite part of the book?
Spoilers, darling, spoilers.

8. Which character was most challenging to create? Why?
Valerian Tsai, the Grey Knight, was probably the toughest to get right. He’s a prominent figure in the story and takes on the father figure role for many people. He’s immensely powerful but prefers to use a soft touch. Getting a mentor right is always difficult, and in Valerian’s case doubly so. However, once I thought about what he loves and why he’s taking on this immensely difficult task, it became smooth sailing for how to present him in the right light. Rooker Flynn was challenging as well, because I had to take an immoral character and make him relatable, but once I found his sense of humor, his song started to sing itself.

9. What are your immediate future plans?
I’m going camping in the wilderness for a week. No phones, no lights, no cars. Launching a book is harder than writing one, so I’m going to recharge my batteries in the wilds of Washington. Thanks for your time Sadie, I hope your fans love The Legend of Black Jack!


About the Author:
author-photoA.R. Witham is a three-time Emmy-winning writer-producer and a great lover of adventure. He is the world’s foremost expert on the history of Keymark. He loves to talk with young people and adults who remember what young people know. He has written for film and television, canoed to the Arctic Circle, hiked the Appalachian Trail and been inside his house while it burned down. He lives in Indianapolis.

If you would like a sneak peek at his upcoming work or upcoming events, please reach out to him:

Twitter: @ARWitham
Facebook: ARWitham
Website
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Starts: May 19, 2022 at 12:00am EST / 
Ends: May 25, 2022 at 11:59pm

Book Blitz & Excerpt – Rage Unleashed: Wrecked + Giveaway

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Rage Unleashed

Rage, Book 1

Damian was getting careless.

He purposefully lingered in Sasha’s apartment, sniffing his underwear, making sure his scent bled into the fabric. He’ll die if he couldn’t have him. Have this. His sweet omega.

Professor Sasha Petrovitch wasn’t meant to be coddled; he was meant to be wrecked.

Eviscerated.

Damian could do that. If only Sasha hadn’t rejected him. If only Sasha behaved like a proper omega and submitted to him fully then this wouldn’t be happening.

There were rules against this type of thing. Treaties. Laws and regulations against alpha’s overstepping their boundaries.

As pack leader of the Barbaric Prowlers, Damian has broken them all.

He couldn’t help himself. Words failed him once he invaded Sasha’s space. That scent. Jasmine. It drove him mad. Damian wanted to smash him open. Pull him apart as a wolf does to sheep. He’s half-possessed.

Deranged.

This maddening infatuation has destroyed him.

And the worst part was, Damian let it.

Warning: violent thoughts, violence, gore, dubious consent, stalking, werewolf shifter fantasy, HFN & soft cliffhanger ending.

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Excerpt:

Sasha was too perfect to be an omega. Smooth skin as pale as milk. His black eyebrows were full and waxed, drawn together like two razor-sharp daggers. Sasha’s eyes were like dark swirling pits, two black sucking holes for those that dared to gaze long enough.

Too bad there wasn’t a happy bone in Sasha’s whole fucking body.

Damian rued the day he ever laid eyes on him. Then he wouldn’t have been so completely fucked. Unfortunately, he fell in love with the bastard. Damian fell in love and his father arranged for them to be married. Beautiful Sasha. His love. His mate.

His nightmare.

Sasha was a ruthless omega. Rude. Entitled. With his chin thrust in the air like he was better than everyone. Damian did everything he could to prove that he’d be a good alpha. He bought Sasha lunch during class, or coffee, only to find it all dumped in the garbage a few minutes later. Damian even went as far as to scent mark him and as soon as he left Sasha sprayed some artificial perfume to get rid of his scent.

Sasha was a ruthless omega. Rude. Entitled. With his chin thrust in the air like he was better than everyone. Damian did everything he could to prove that he’d be a good alpha. He bought Sasha lunch during class, or coffee, only to find it all dumped in the garbage a few minutes later. Damian even went as far as to scent mark him and as soon as he left Sasha sprayed some artificial perfume to get rid of his scent.

Damian wanted to strangle him alive for that. What kind of fiancé did that shit? What kind of omega couldn’t stand their fucking mate?

Sasha. That’s who.

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Enter the Giveaway:

To celebrate the thrilling release of Rage Unleashed: Wrecked, J.K. Jones is giving away a $10 Amazon Voucher!

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About the Author:

Literature is in my veins and the words pour out of my blood. Message me privately to join the mailing list. I like my artsy with a bit of fartsy. I love Sundays spent drinking massive amounts of coffee and lingering over whichever book I am currently enthralled with. Favorite movies: American Beauty. Duh. What can I say? It’s a classic. Favorite place: The fort I built in my basement which my mom forced me to take down. Favorite food: Cheetos. Puffs. I don’t know what everything is crazy about the crunchy ones are crap.

Connect with Susi:
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Book Blitz & Excerpt: Soul Stealer + Giveaway

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Soulstealer: Steven
by Shane Boulware
(Soulstealer, #2)
Publication date: May 20th 2022
Genres: Adult, Supernatural

The Soulstealer’s greatest power is that no one believes it exists…

…except Steven Carpenter. One of the last remaining members of the Ordo Solis—a thousand-year-old order sworn to kill the ancient demon—even his faith has begun to wane. But when he witnesses the return of the Soulstealer with his own eyes, belief quickly turns to grim reality.

With the souls of the world at stake, Steven knows what he has to do—expose the Soulstealer. There’s just one problem, it knows it’s been discovered … and so do the nefarious cults sworn to the demon’s cause. In a race against time and evil, Steven will have to find help. But will it be enough? Or will they be too late?

Author Shane Boulware ramps up the action in his hair-raising second entry in the Soulstealer series. Burning the boundaries between urban fantasy and suspense thriller, this grim-dark stomach-churner will leave you as breathless as the characters trapped within its pages.

Goodreads / Amazon


EXCERPT:

Though she didn’t believe him, Jeff promised Sara he’d read to Trista tonight, taking no more than two hours reviewing surveillance. He worked his schedule to spend the first hour watching the Gatekeeper in real-time as he arrived, and the second hour emailing and speeding through the day’s feed.

The Gatekeeper came into view as Jeff’s doorbell rang. Jeff stepped out of his office and got to the door in time to see Sara peering through the peephole. She scowled at Jeff as she opened it, revealing Steven dressed in a Star Trek t-shirt, leather jacket, steel-toed boots, jeans, and a ridiculous purple bandanna around his neck.

Steven waved. “Hi, Sara.”

“Steven.” She glared at Jeff. “Two hours, Jeff, and not one minute more.”

Steven grinned and made a whip-cracking motion with widening eyes as Sara returned to the living room.

“Yeah,” Jeff muttered, “I’m lucky I’m still in the house. Come on in. I’m watching the Gatekeeper.”

“Sweet!” Steven followed Jeff back into the office, setting his backpack down and pulling up a stool while Jeff returned to his chair. They huddled around the television. “Man, we haven’t done this in a while.”

Jeff cracked a smile. “Yeah, it’s been months since we’ve had a good ole fashioned sit-down. Aren’t you supposed to be out cruising the wild?”

Steven shrugged while glancing about the office; empty wrappers and gadgets strewn about. “I was in the neighborhood. I’m still on my vacation time though, so I’ll be headed back out for parts unknown.”

Jeff nudged him. “You were feeling guilty.”

Steven tilted his head. “Yeah, maybe a little. But I was serious when I said that I needed some time away from all this s***. The open road is the open road, and I got an urge I need to satisfy.” Steven pumped his fists and rocked his hips.

Jeff laughed while tucking away some unpaid bills on his desk.

“I decided to go south to the Carolinas,” Steven continued. “Through Tennessee and Missouri, then Ohio and back here. Tomorrow I’ll head out north, possibly all the way to Canuck-land. Who knows? I’ll figure it out when I get there.”

“Meanwhile…” Jeff began.

“Meanwhile, you’re fightin’ the good fight,” Steven added in a southern accent while eyeing the television. The Gatekeeper lounged in a brown leather chair, watching the fire as he did every day. A small table stood to his immediate right and another leather chair on the other side. His black leather fedora rested on the middle table.

Forty minutes into the video, a young man approached the Gatekeeper. Jeff leaned forward, snatched a notepad and mini pen from his back pocket, and scribbled notes on the paper.

Steven scrutinized the unfolding scene. “Easy, killer, just watch.”

The young man tried to sit before jerking still. He stood back up.

“I wish we had audio,” Jeff muttered.

“Shhh, just watch.” Steven strained to read their lips. The camera angles shot out both ways from the fireplace, giving them the perfect view. The Gatekeeper and his new friend began a conversation. Then the young man grabbed hold of the fedora and set it on his head, tapping the edge.

“Holy s***,” Jeff said. “That’s the Gatekeeper’s hat. He either knows exactly what he’s doing, or he has a death wish.”

“Mmmhm, we’ll see.”

They knew what would happen after the Gatekeeper verified the Soulstealer’s identity. They had learned about the procedure back when a much stronger Solis America infiltrated the Raptor’s former headquarters in Boston. Still, they could only guess at what words the two exchanged. The Raptors guarded the secret with a foolproof method: memorization.

The young man sat in the chair, back erect, and continued their dialogue. He took the Gatekeeper’s hat off and returned it to the table, tapping it again. The newcomer said something else, prompting the Gatekeeper to snatch his fedora, stand, and stride toward the VIP section.

The young man made no motion to follow, which they knew wasn’t part of the procedure unless the exchange failed. When the Gatekeeper left the room, the young man exited the bar the way he came.

Steven frowned. “That’s different.”

“What just happened?” Jeff asked.

“Looks like a failed attempt.”

“Yeah, but the guy knew what to do.”

“Or he was just a dumb drunk. It’s probably the Raptors messing with us again.”

“How could they know we’re still watching them?”

Steven gave Jeff a long look. “Jeff, they’ve probably been in your house a dozen times this year alone. I’m pretty sure they know.”

Jeff drew back, his voice trembling. “That’s not funny, Steven. I have a little girl in this house.” His eyes darted around the room as paranoia enveloped him.

“C’mon Jeff, they’re the Raptors. They have dossiers on every one of us, down to what kind of ice cream we like. We’ve been playing Spy vs. Spy since we figured out they supported the Soulstealer.”

“Is that your new name for it, the Soulstealer?”

“Catchy, isn’t it? I came up with it on the ride back. Sounds a lot better than ‘Stealer of Souls,’ or ‘Dracula.’ And Satan.”


Author Bio:

Shane Boulware is an unconventional idealist from Orlando, Florida. Naturally, he commissioned as a Contracting Officer in the United States Air Force in 2012, where he promptly got tased, was hit with pepper spray, participated in a mock riot, jumped out of an airplane, and lived in a combat zone. These experiences tempered his creative instinct and led him to publish two music albums, found an innovation company, break a Guinness World Record, and learn over sixteen dance styles.

Having grown up a huge fan of Dune, Star Wars, Stargate SG-1, Warhammer 40K, Harry Potter, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Lord of the Rings, Shane always wanted to create and share a world of his own. His imagination set him on a path to write the supernatural thriller, Soulstealer, and its sequel, The Ordo Solis.

When he’s not negotiating contracts or salsa dancing the night away, you can find Shane taking his creative passion out on an unsuspecting keyboard. If you want to know when his next book will be available, visit his website at ShaneBoulware.com, where you can sign up to receive release updates and join a community of savants, swashbucklers, and nerds.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter


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