Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Artifacts & Lies Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the Artifacts and Lies Blog Tour!
I'm excited to be hosting Jordan Jacobs, author of a new middle grade mystery with an archeological twist, SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES.
A legendary ghost, an ancient treasure, a mystery only Samantha Sutton can solve.

What happens when Indiana Jones meets Nancy Drew? You get Samantha Sutton, twelve year-old archeology buff with sharp wit and an insatiably curious personality. SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABYRINTH OF LIES is the incredible page-turner about a young girl from California who is given the chance to follow her archeologist uncle to the excavation of an ancient Peruvian temple.

What she doesn’t expect, though, is the legend haunting this ancient site. When important artifacts begin to disappear overnight, Samantha must navigate the disapproving eye of her uncle’s acerbic assistant, the bungling boyishness of her annoying big brother, and the ever-present stories swirling among the locals of the hysterical spirit that wanders through the town late at night. Using her keen sensibility and her knack for mapping the unknown passageways of Chavín de Huántar, Samantha uncovers a mystery far bigger than she could have ever imagined. This is a novel for children (and adults!) who love history, mystery, and heart-stopping plot-twists.
In SAMANTHA SUTTON AND THE LABRYNTH OF LIES real-life archeologist Jordan Jacobs brings to life Samantha Sutton, the curious, twelve year-old daring-do heroine of his debut novel. Combining everything you love about history, mystery, and heart-racing adventure, Jacobs weaves a plot full of non-stop fun and incredible facts. From what it’s actually like to be on a real archeological dig to the delightful tastes and smells of South America, the plot is woven from Jacobs own experience working at the actual site of this exciting adventure—an ancient Peruvian temple shrouded in mystery.
For my stop on the blog tour, I'm hosting author, and real life archeologist, Jordan Jacobs' guest post:
Did That Really Happen?
Chavin de Huantar almost killed me.

I lost 35 pounds over the 10-week archaeological field season--a not-so-pleasant combo of high-altitude labor, giardia, and the cunning Peruvian parasites that detected my innocent gut as soon as I arrived.  A mystery fever confined me to bed for three full days mid-summer, with only the team’s shared copy of Lord of the Rings to keep me company. To this day I’m not sure which remembered scenes I read and which I merely hallucinated.

And when I wasn’t ill or raving, I was struggling to adjust to life in the Andes.  Over the course of the summer, I was gored by cacti, attacked by bats, chased through the village by unfriendly dogs, and badly bruised when my shower exploded--clogged with mud from its riverine source.   A taxi I’d hired to take me back from an outing never appeared, and I had to hitch a ride back in a truck full of half-dead chickens.  A collision on a cliffside road almost sent our excavation van tumbling over the edge.  

I’m not a sickly person.  Not at all.  I tend to do well in remote and foreign places (in subsequent travels to Asia, Africa and elsewhere in Latin America, I’ve never encountered such a shock to my system). But my Andean summer took its toll.  In September, when my parents came to meet my return flight to California, I looked so weak that my dad insisted on carrying my filthy duffel. My mom just cried.
It was the best summer of my life.  

For a young archaeologist, there can be nothing better than Chavin de Huantar.  The site dates to about 1200 BCE, and continued in active use as a religious and political center for at least a thousand years.  Roughly 10,400 feet above sea level, it’s a vast complex of platforms, terraces, and plazas, all flanking a central temple--six stories tall and the width and breadth of a New York City block. Threading through the site are narrow passageways— called “galleries”--their entire network still unmapped.  Exploring the pitch black depths of the ancient temple was an unparalleled thrill, and realized some childhood dreams.

So, too, did the science.  The Stanford professor leading the project was exacting in his methods, and led our team patiently through the survey, excavation, and analysis.  All energy was applied to a simple series of questions: How had this place been built?  What was its purpose?  How had it been so successful?

The answers that emerged that summer--and in all the years of research before and since--have been as shocking and as thrilling as anything in the movies. The whole experience made me feel like I was twelve years old. The place was begging for a kids’ book.  

And so I wrote one.

I’d always wanted to write something for kids about archaeology--probably because, as a kid, I was always reading about archaeology myself.  And while I knew that most children might not have the patience I had had to track down dense college textbooks and dry academic journals, I wanted to present a realistic view of the discipline I love so much, and share with them the real-world excitement that it offers.

Setting the book in Chavin made things easy.  In writing Samantha’s adventures, I was able to throw all my adventures on her and her compatriots, the good as well as the bad.  I chase them with dogs and bats.  I explode their showers.  I threaten them with falls off Andean cliffsides, and strand them, then retrieve them, in trucks of half-dead poultry.  But they get a stake in the scientific discoveries, too.  I took pains to get these right--both those made during my summer in Peru and in the years of excavation that have occurred there, before and since.   

In many ways, Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies is a true story. It’s my story.  And it’s a story that my younger self would have been eager to read.

Thanks so much for visiting, Jordan! I'm eager to get this story into the hands of my middle school readers.

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