Spotlight & Excerpt: The Legend of Black Jack, by A.R. Witham

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Welcome to my stop on the tour for The Legend of Black Jack by A.R. Witham! Read on for more details!

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The Legend of Black Jack

by A.R. Witham

Publication Date: May 17th, 2022

Genre: YA Fantasy, Action Adventure, Coming-of-Age, Portal Fantasy (Full Page Illustrations)

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?

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)

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Blood

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.

Available on Amazon


 

About the Author

AR Witham Author Photo

A.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.

A.R. Witham | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Book Tour Schedule

June 13th

R&R Book Tours (Kick- Off)

The Faerie Review (Spotlight)

@hodophile_z (Review)

@jacleomik33 (Review)

Riss Reviews (Review)

@jennlynnadams (Review)

June 14th

Cocktails & Fairytales (Spotlight)

@jypsylynn (Review)

@gryffindorbookishnerd (Review)

Bunny’s Reviews (Review)

Nesie’s Place (Spotlight)

@fle_d (Spotlight)

 June 15th

Liliyana Shadowlyn (Spotlight)

@ofmoviesandbooks (Review)

Books + Coffee = Happiness (Review)

@happily_undignified (Review)

@takealookatmybookshelf (Review)

June 16th

@dany.alvy (Spotlight)

@amber.bunch_author (Review)

@books_inthecity (Review)

@over.on.my.bookshelf (Review)

Jessica Belmont (Review)

June 17th

Dark Whimiscal Art (Spotlight)

Sadie’s Spotlight (Spotlight)

@genoviareadingco (Review)

Reads & Reels (Spotlight)


Book Tour Organized By:

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Harley James and the Mystery of the Mayan Kings + Giveaway

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the HARLEY JAMES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MAYAN KINGS by Leah Cupps Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

 

Title: HARLEY JAMES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MAYAN KINGS
(Harley James Adventures 1)

Author: Leah Cupps

Pub. Date: May 11, 2022

Publisher: Vision Forty

Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

Pages: 172

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NTBD, Bookshop.org

Read for FREE with a Kindle Unlimited Membership!

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Will Harley Find the Missing Mayan Statue & Save the World?

Amateur cryptologist Harley James has just landed in the sticky jungle of Tikal, Guatemala—home to the famous Mayan ruins. She’s made a few friends, a few mistakes…and a ground-breaking discovery.

The legendary statue of the long-lost Mayan King.

Just as she is about to impress her father with her discovery, the statue is stolen. Right from her own room!

And what’s worse? The legend says if the statues of the three kings are reunited, they’ll bring back an army from the dead to rule the world.

Follow along with Harley as she tracks down the missing Mayan statue, solves a few riddles and stumbles upon a secret society that will change her life forever!

Excerpt:

Tikal, Guatemala, Present Day
You know how you just know something in your “knower”? As if you had a crystal ball built into your brain?
Well, today I had a feeling. This was going to be my year.
I, Harley Rebecca James, am going to win the Junior International Cryptography Competition.
What is that, you ask?
JICC is an online competition that follows the story of two explorers as they embark on a cryptographic adventure. Solving riddles and clues are my favorite things to do, so naturally, I love cryptography. Each week for twelve weeks, a new chapter is released, with a new code to break. Thousands of kids enter to win. And I was about to solve the clue for week two.
Thirty-nine characters. A famous phrase… got it!
I scribbled the answer down in my journal and smiled.
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure,” I whispered to myself.
A quote from the ancient philosopher Rumi. Of course, I’ve heard Dad say this a hundred times.
The code itself had been easy to crack. The technique used was a simple Caesar shift. The hard part had been finding the key to unlock the cipher.
I couldn’t wait to get back to my room so I could log on and enter the answer.
“Harley? Have you finished your report on Mayan glyphs yet?” A voice suddenly broke through my thoughts.
Report?
Right, I was supposed to be finishing my homework, not cracking codes.
“Almost,” I replied, tucking a piece of unruly blonde hair out of my face. I was with my tutor Jessica Rodríguez and her dog, Daisy, sitting under the shade of the famous temples of Tikal, an ancient Mayan site nestled in the dense Guatemalan forest.
“Are you solving riddles again?”
I smiled in response, shrugging my shoulders.
“You need to finish your history assignment.”
Jessica frowned at me and readjusted her long legs, shifting in her chair. She was pretty when she smiled, but most of the time, I felt like she was scowling at me. I sat upright and grabbed my notebook.
She hated when I got distracted during homework time.
Upon hearing my voice, Daisy rose up from her spot next to Jessica and walked over to me. She licked my face, and I patted her on the head.
I was currently sweating through another afternoon of sixth-grade homework, my books scattered over a large blanket. I scribbled in the last few lines on my report and shoved them back into my history binder.
“Done!”
Daisy was tugging at my backpack, begging for a walk. I smiled at her. I’ve always wanted a dog, but it was one of the many things I had to give up as a famous world traveler.
Okay, not quite famous, but the world traveler part was spot on. You see, I’m a bit of a nomad. The only daughter of world-renowned archeologist and engineer, Russell James. Global traveler, student of the world.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I’ll admit it, some parts are great. Exploring remote sections of the world, making new friends, learning new languages.
But then there are the other parts of world travel: staying in hotels with no air conditioning and traveling to remote areas with big—I mean BIG—spiders isn’t always fun. There was one time in Peru when we spotted a Giant Huntsman spider the size of a dinner plate. I had nightmares about it for weeks.
And Dad? Let’s just say he’s overprotective. I’m never allowed to explore anywhere on my own. I can barely get alone time in my room without him checking on me every fifteen minutes. I love him dearly, but I’d just like a little more freedom.
Daisy placed her tiny furry chin on my outstretched leg, breaking me from my thoughts.
“You ready for a walk, girl?” I scratched her head. “I’m ready for a break, too.”
Daisy stood up, twirled around in a circle, and nudged at her leash.
“Jessica? Would you mind if I take Daisy for a walk?”
Jessica barely looked up. “Hmm?” Her eyes lingered on the pages of her book.
“I could use a break.”
She raised her eyes to me and Daisy, who was now shaking with anticipation. “Okay. Just remember, stay close—”
“I know, I know. Don’t talk to strangers and don’t go into the jungle.”
Jessica gave me a thin smile. “And be careful.”
“Of course.” I gave her my most confident grin. “Let’s go, Daisy!”
I swung my favorite purple backpack over my shoulders. This wasn’t just any backpack, mind you. It was decorated with patches from all over the world. Mom had given it to me, along with my first traveler’s patch from France. I kept all the necessities inside; cell phone, colored pencils, a leather notebook, gum, and a headlamp—just in case.
Daisy fell in step with me as we started out across the edge of the jungle. Tikal, Guatemala, was a huge archeological site full of Mayan temples, statues, and monuments. Some of the temples extended above the tops of the trees, like lighthouses in the forest. The Mayans built one of the largest ancient cities in the world… made with no bulldozers, no cranes, and no construction equipment of any kind.
I stared out over the city. How did they do it?
Everything was going great—I was being completely safe—until Daisy suddenly tugged me away from the path around the Temple of the Jaguar toward a dense spot in the jungle.
“No, Daisy,” I said, pulling back on her leash. “We have to stay on the path.”
If I left this path, I’d never be allowed out of Dad’s or Jessica’s sight again.
But Daisy wasn’t giving up. She pulled me into the brush and out of the sunlight. Not good. Snakes and spiders loved hanging out in the shade. I looked around nervously.
“What is it, girl?”
As my eyes adjusted to the shade, I saw a figure standing in the trees about fifteen feet away.
“Hello?” I said, my voice cracking. Daisy continued to pull me forward like a sled dog. “Daisy, will you stop?”
But she was not giving up, and I couldn’t hold on any longer. The leash slipped from my hand, and she bolted into the jungle.
“Daisy!” I cried, dashing after her.
Branches and leaves whipped past me as I followed her deeper into the forest. I wasn’t about to lose Daisy in the jungle, rules, or no rules.
Just as I was about to run out of breath, Daisy stopped ahead of me with an excited, yip!
Apparently, she had found something.
I caught up to her in a few long strides and peered into the jungle. Nestled behind a bramble of jungle leaves was a wall made of stone. After I grabbed Daisy’s leash, I took a step closer.
“What did you find, girl?”
Six nooks were carved into the side of the wall, about the size of my outstretched hand. Five of the nooks had carved stones placed inside. I recognized the carvings. They were Mayan.
In fact, I had just been studying them for my history lesson.
Now I was intrigued. Maybe that report would come in handy. Dad was always going on and on about using our great knowledge of history in the field.
The first five symbols stood for Jaguar, Sun, Snake, Rain, and Skull. But the sixth nook was empty. I touched the soft grooves of the granite. My code-finding mind went to work. There must be a stone that fits into the final slot. It must follow a logical pattern.
What do the glyphs for Jaguar, Sun, Snake, Rain, and Skull have in common? I bit the edge of my lip. I tried to think of something useful from my report. I had taken a particular interest in the Mayan glyphs, given my love of codes and symbols.
I knew that Kinich Ahau, the god of the sun, was often depicted as a jaguar. And Chaac, the god of rain, was drawn with the body of a snake. And the skull? Well, the god of earth, and the underworld, was Cizin. He was often shown as a skull.
I felt a little chill run up my spine. Creepy.
But back to the glyphs.
Jaguar, Sun, Snake, Rain, Skull… Earth?
It was worth a shot.
There were stones scattered about the jungle floor and I quickly shifted through them, looking for earth symbol. A few were broken, some had parts of a carving. They represented everything from rain drops to mountains.
Then I stumbled over a sharp object jutting out of the jungle floor. I got down on my knees. I could see a stone half-buried in the mud. I dug my fingers into the ground and began to dig. When I was done, I stared at the stone.
It had the symbol for earth. Bingo!
I ran back to the center of the wall and placed it in the sixth nook. To my surprise, it fit perfectly in place.

Then something weird happened. The ground beneath began to rumble.
Was this an earthquake?
It wasn’t that unusual for an earthquake to happen in Central America. But right after I placed the sixth symbol? That was a little odd.
The stones in front of me suddenly began to move, and I pulled Daisy back as several rocks began to fall. We huddled together near the ground. I placed my hands over my head and squeezed my eyes shut. A few seconds later, the shaking stopped.
I looked up. The center of the wall that held the carved stones had crumbled into a pile at my feet.
So much for solving that riddle.
“Come on, Daisy, we better get back,” I said, pulling on her leash.
If my overprotective dad knew I was by myself in the jungle during an earthquake?
I shuddered at the thought.
But just as I was about to leave, my eyes caught on a peculiar green glow coming from the pile of stones.
Daisy must have noticed it too, because she walked back over to the spot. As she sniffed the ground, I saw she was standing over a small object that appeared to be lit from within. I squatted down and took a closer look.
It was a little statue, about as big as an eggplant. I reached down and touched it, feeling the cool surface on my skin. Perhaps it was made of jade?
I could hear Dad’s voice in my head shouting, You should be wearing gloves!
Well, he wasn’t here, so I picked it up.
It had to be a real Mayan artifact. What else would it be doing here in the jungle?
Then I got that weird feeling you get when someone’s watching you. I spun around and looked every which way I could. Leaves were moving off toward the temple as if someone had just parted them.
I figured I had a few choices. I could run the piece back to Dad and share my discovery. That would be the obvious thing to do.
Or I could do some research of my own, find out who this little guy was. Maybe if I found out enough, I could convince Dad that I was old enough to explore on my own.
What should I do?
One thing I did know was I had to get out of there. The waving tree limbs gave me the heebie-jeebies.
And then, the answer hit me.
I’d pay a visit to my friend, Aly, whose parents managed one of the museums here in Tikal. She could help me figure out what it was.
“What do you think, Daisy girl? Should we get out of here? Check this one out ourselves?”
Daisy yipped back, obviously agreeing with me.
I stashed the statue in my backpack and set off towards our rental house in the village. First, I had to stop at home and enter this week’s answer for the cryptography competition. After that, we’d head over to the museum.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that little statue I had stuffed in my backpack?
It was about to get me into a whole world of trouble.


About Leah Cupps:

Leah Cupps is an author, designer and entrepreneur. She came up with the idea for Harley James with her oldest daughter Savannah. Savannah had taken an interest in Mayan history and so the two of them worked together to come up with the idea for the first Harley James book; the Mystery of the Mayan Kings. Leah lives in Indiana with her husband and three children. She is also the cofound of Vision Forty Press, a small family owned publishing company.

Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a finished copy of HARLEY JAMES AND THE MYSTERY OF THE MAYAN KINGS, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/13/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Excerpt

6/13/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

IG Post

6/14/2022

The Momma Spot

Excerpt/IG Post

6/14/2022

BookHounds YA

Excerpt/IG Post

6/15/2022

Ya Books Central

Excerpt

6/15/2022

Jenguerdy

IG Post

6/16/2022

CherieColyer

Excerpt/IG Post

6/16/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

6/17/2022

Sadie’s Spotlight

Excerpt/IG Post

6/17/2022

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Excerpt

Week Two:

6/20/2022

More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post

6/20/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

6/21/2022

@jacleomik33 The Page Ladies

IG Review

6/21/2022

beersbooksandboos

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/22/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

Review/IG Post

6/22/2022

The Bookwyrm’s Den

Review

6/23/2022

Fire and Ice

Review/IG Post

6/23/2022

M reads often

IG Review

6/24/2022

Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Review

6/24/2022

Nagma | TakeALookAtMyBookshelf

IG Review

 

Spotlight & Guest Post: Verse + Giveaway

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I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the VERSE BOOK 2: THE SECOND GATE  by Sam Beck Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

Title: VERSE BOOK 2: THE SECOND GATE

Author: Sam Beck, Rebecca Taylor (Editor)

Pub. Date: June 28, 2022

Publisher: Wonderbound

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 256

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NiBooks, TBD, Bookshop.org

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FACE THE MAGIC

THE BATTLE FOR THE FUTURE OF MAGIC HAS TAKEN ITS FIRST PRISONER.

Held captive by the leaders of a dangerous new movement, Neitya is forced to face a darker side of her abilities that threaten to tear her away from Fife, her only true friend. The only way back to one another may be to follow their destinies down divergent paths and discover what it means to face their worst fears alone. 

Book 2 of the three-book original graphic novel fantasy series!


Reviews:

“Verse’s rich drawings and colours beautifully illustrate a complicated, engaging fantasy world filled with sympathetic characters. I can’t wait to learn more about them as their journey continues!” — Faith Erin Hicks ― “The Nameless City” – Comics Creator, Writer, Artist

“An intricately woven tale of magic and mystery, Sam Beck has written and illustrated an unforgettable story.” — Victoria Ying ― Illustrator – “Diana Princess of the Amazons,” “I Kissed Alice,” and more!

“VERSE is an intricately woven story of magic, mystery and unforgettable characters with lushly illustrated worlds. You’ll want more and more.” — Victoria Ying ― Illustrator – “Diana Princess of the Amazons,” “I Kissed Alice,” and more!

“Verse is the sort of book you spend hours pouring over, even after the first read. Every single page is a visual delight – I lingered on every panel and relished every page-turn. Sam expertly crafts a sprawling world full of gripping characters and thrilling stakes that transported me to another dimension– it’s the kind of book I would have devoured as a teenager, and certainly still love now.” — Hannah Templer ― Artist – “Cosmoknights”

FOR DOWNLOADABLE DIGITAL ITEMS (Bookmarks, Digital Wallpapers, and Poster), please click on this link.

To see and hear Sam talk about VERSE, click on the YouTube link below for her Zoom chat at the 2021 US Book Show, entitled: MAGIC IS REAL.


Guest Post:

List your favorite graphic novels or comics from when you were a child and talk about how you see them as an adult.

There are three mangas I always list when asked this because I think they all had a really big impact on the kind of stories I like to read and write (or at least aspire to). I read Full Metal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa and Trigun by Yasuhiro Nightow as a teen and the way characters were written really stuck with me. They are complex and their relationships with each other are complex as well. It felt like something I hadn’t seen in other novels I was reading at the time. GoGo Monster by Taiyō Matsumoto is the other graphic novel that I read a bit later on. It opened up the world of graphic novels to me and made me interested in them as an art form.


About Sam Beck:

Sam Beck is a writer and illustrator living in Toronto. She likes to explore themes of identity and relationships through the lens of fantasy. Sam has done work with Dark Horse, Vault Comics, and BOOM! Studios. When she’s not drawing, find her admiring the forests of northern Ontario or playing the ocarina and guitar.

Sign Up for the Verse email list!

Verse Website | Website | Twitter | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads | Amazon


Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a finished copy of VERSE BOOK 2: THE SECOND GATE, US Only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tour Schedule:

Week One:

6/13/2022

The Momma Spot

Guest Post

6/14/2022

Sadie’s Spotlight

Guest Post/IG Post

6/15/2022

BookHounds YA

Guest Post/IG Post

6/16/2022

Ya Books Central

Guest Post

6/17/2022

Two Chicks on Books

Guest Post

6/18/2022

@jaimerockstarbooktours

IG Post

Week Two:

6/19/2022

Lady Hawkeye

Excerpt/IG Post

6/20/2022

Read With Serena

Review/IG Post

6/21/2022

Living in a Bookworld

Guest Post

6/22/2022

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog

Spotlight

6/23/2022

Lifestyle of Me

Review/IG Post

6/24/2022

Rajiv’s Reviews

Review/IG Post

6/25/2022

@thechattybookworm

TikTok Review/IG Post

Week Three:

6/26/2022

Fire and Ice

Review

6/27/2022

Eli to the nth

Review/IG Post

6/28/2022

Nonbinary Knight Reads

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

6/29/2022

Library of Alexandria Archives

Review/IG Post

6/30/2022

TakeALookAtMyBookshelf

Review/IG Post

7/1/2022

The Bookwyrm’s Den

Review

7/2/2022

A Backwards Story

Review/IG Post

Week Four:

7/3/2022

Nerdophiles

Review/IG Post

7/4/2022

modefii

Review/IG Post

7/5/2022

@allyluvsbooksalatte

Review/IG Post

7/6/2022

Two Points of Interest

Review

7/7/2022

onemused

IG Post

7/8/2022

beersbooksandboos

Review/IG Post/TikTok Post

 

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