February 18, 2015

Blog Tour: The Jaguar Stones series by J & P Voelkel + #Giveaway

Book One: Middleworld

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is looking forward to a family vacation. But his parents, both archaeologists and Maya experts, announce a change in plan. They must leave immediately for a dig in the tiny Central American country of San Xavier. Max will go to summer camp. Max is furious. When he's mysteriously summoned to San Xavier, he thinks they've had a change of heart.

Upon his arrival, Max's wild adventure in the tropical rainforests of San Xavier begins. During his journey, he will unlock ancient secrets and meet strangers who are connected to him in ways he could never have imagined. For fate has delivered a challenge of epic proportions to this pampered teenager. Can Max rescue his parents from the Maya Underworld and save the world from the Lords of Death, who now control the power of the Jaguar Stones in their villainous hands? The scene is set for a roller-coaster ride of suspense and terror, as the good guys and the bad guys face off against a background of haunted temples, zombie armies, and even human sacrifice!

Book Two: The End of the World Club


With the end of the Mayan calendar fast approaching, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy and his new friend Lola, the modern Maya girl who saved his life in the perilous jungle, are racing against time to outwit the twelve Lords of Death. Following the trail of the conquistadors, their quest takes them back to the wild heart of Spain - a forgotten land steeped in legend, superstition and ever more bizarre tourist festivals. With a pack of hellhounds on their heels and the cape-twirling Count Antonio de Landa in hot pursuit, the teens must face madness and betrayal, bluff and double-bluff, to uncover the terrible secrets of the long-lost Yellow Jaguar. But no matter where they run, all roads lead to Xibalba. There, in the cold and watery Maya underworld, we finally discover why only Max Murphy can save the world from the villainous Lords of Death.




Book Three: The River of No Return

A hurricane is brewing in the jungles of the Maya, and the ancient Death Lords are on the warpath. Across the world in Venice, Italy, hanging out with his blogger friend Nasty (Anastasia) Smith-Jones and eating Pizza Gelato, Max Murphy thinks he is safe from their clutches. But when a rogue octopus pulls him off his gondola and tries to drag him down to the underworld, Max realizes that the Death Lords have not finished with him yet.

Soon Max is back in Central America and reunited with the only ones who can help him in his battle--Lola, the mysterious Maya girl, and the howler monkeys Lord 6-Dog and Lady Coco. Once again it's up to the four of them to save the world as they fight off mutant cave spiders, zombie warriors, and, of course, the twelve villainous Death Lords. With the hurricane about to hit land, Max and Lola embark on a one-way journey to danger down the blighted Monkey River. They take shelter in a subterranean hotel, only to stumble upon Death Lord central. Torn between rescuing themselves and rescuing one of the last wild jaguars of the Monkey River region, Max and Lola find themselves drawn into an ever more bizarre series of tests, culminating in a terrifying ballgame that they can never win.

Book Four: The Lost City
The epic conclusion to the exciting Jaguar Stones series and a rip-roaring adventure into the heart of America!

With his parents in jail and the Maya Death Lords in possession of all five Jaguar Stones, fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is pretty sure that he'll never get to leave the rainforest.

But the Lords of Death have a problem--a new king calling himself Great Sun claims to have the Jaguar Stones, too. And they want Max to prove the guy's a fraud. Or else.

Now, Max, and Lola, the mysterious girl who befriends him, are off on another wild adventure that will take them from Central America to New Orleans and up the Mississippi to the lost city at the heart of America's past.

But one thing Max should have learned after all of this dealings with the Death Lords -- they never keep their promises.



Jon Voelkel grew up in Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia, all the while dreaming of a boring life in suburbia. Eventually, having survived monkey stew, an attack by giant rats, and a plane crash in the jungle, he rolled up his hammock and decamped to Europe. Meanwhile, growing up in a sedate seaside town in northern England, Pamela Craik Voelkel was dreaming of travel and adventure. The pair met in London, where they both worked in advertising. They went on to help found an award-winning agency, for which Jon was named one of the fifty most creative minds in Britain by the Financial Times. The authors' first book in the Jaguar Stones series, Middleworld, was an Al Roker Book Club pick. The Voelkels now live in Vermont with their three children. You can visit them online at www.jaguarstones.com.




STRANGER THAN FICTION
Pamela Voelkel, one half of Jaguar Stones author-illustrators J&P Voelkel, tells the story behind the story.


"It all began with a bedtime story. Every night Jon would invent something based on ideas from the kids. On this particular night they chose a girl who could talk to monkeys, a pyramid, and night-vision goggles. That story, night-vision goggles and all, became the first Jaguar Stones book, MIDDLEWORLD.

Jon grew up in South and Central America, and much of the original story was based on his childhood memories. It began as an exciting adventure, with Maya ruins as a cool background. But when he asked me (an advertising copywriter) to get involved, I wanted to see the jungle for myself. So we took the children down to Belize and that changed everything. Until that trip, I don't think either of us had thought of the Maya as a living people.

Much as we try to work out the plots at home in Vermont, the storylines are usually dictated by what we discover on research trips. It's such a clichė, but truth really is stranger than fiction.

For example, in MIDDLEWORLD, the amazing ecology of the rainforest is almost a character in its own right. And the story of Lola, the Maya girl who befriends Max, our mixed-up city kid, evolved from talking to real-life Maya teenagers.

For our second book, THE END OF THE WORLD CLUB, we went to Spain to research the conquistadors and ended up in Finisterre, the end of the world in Roman times. From then on, the story wrote itself. When Max is paraded aroundin a coffin?We saw that ata town called Santa Marta. When half the seats on the bus are reserved for thespirits of dead relatives? Their destination is a real village on the Coast of Death (also a real place!) called San Andres. We saw everyone buying two drinks in the bar, one for themselves and one for their invisible companion. You couldn't make it up.

Book Three, THE RIVER OF NO RETURN, contains some sad things we saw in Central America, such as deforestation and trees ravaged by blight. But there's a lot of comedy in it too, particularly in the crazy underground hotel run by the Death Lords, which was inspired by a book tour stop in Las Vegas.

For the fourth and final Jaguar Stones book, THE LOST CITY, we take Max and Lola across the Gulf of Mexico to New Orleans and up the Mississippi. The series ends, where it began, in Max's hometown of Boston with a showdown at Fenway Park, home of his (and our) beloved Red Sox.

By this time, I was doing most of the writing and Jon was doing most of the illustrating. One of his spreads for Book Four shows legendary Maya monsters, such as the bird that flies upside down and the beautiful witch who lures passing travellers like the Greek sirens. Researching this folklore required a lot of help from Maya people, because there's hardly anything on the internet. But what surprised us most was the lack of information about THE LOST CITY itself, the native American site of Cahokia. It's just across from Saint Louis, and it still has over a hundred pyramid mounds, the largest of which is bigger than the Great Pyramid in Egypt.

So you can see, even though there's a lot of fantasy in our books, the most amazing things aretrue. We could never invent the way therainforest works or the Maya calendar system or the eccentric rituals of Celtic Spain.

But if you're going to mix fantasy and reality, you have to be careful. Tom Lowenburg of the Octavia Bookstore in New Orleans taught us that.

Tom and his co-owner/wife Judith Lafitte volunteered to help us find locations for THE LOST CITY. We needed a cemetery near a levee with a boat dock. It got to the early hours and we were still exploring old graveyards and scrambling up levees in the dark. But Tom refused to give up. "It's fine, " we assured him. "We'll make something up."

Tom was horrified. "You cant do that. If the New Orleans locations are not believable, it will put my customers off the whole book.” Then he said something that has stayed with us ever since: “You have to make the little lies as true as possible, so readers can believe the big lie.”


It's the best advice on writing we've ever received. And yes, sometime before dawn, we did find the perfect cemetery by the perfect levee.


Giveaway is for the entire series of the Jaguar Stones. First 3 books in paperback and book 4 in hardback. Giveaway is open for US residents only.


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3 comments:

Dorothy Teel said...

I think that I would like to read these books and pass them on to my grandson after I am done, I think it sounds interesting to follow Max and his adventures, and it sounds like another way to learn about countries and events that we do not know anything about, I like that a lot is based on Jon's childhood memories.

traveler said...

I would love these books since they are ideal for my grandson whose name is Max. Max loves books and is an avid reader. Thanks for this lovely feature and giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

Dorothy Teel said...

Thankyou so very much waiting to read, have a wonderful day

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