Tag Archives | ancient Maya

The official blog tour! Prize packages galore!

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! Woo hoo!


On this tour, you’ll find out the behind-the-scenes journey with this story, my decision to go with a small press, weaving mythology into writing, writing craft tidbits exemplified with a unique teaser. Lots of good stuff. And don’t forget the incredible prize packages!

When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed.

No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match.

Here are the blog tour stops.



Prize Package One! (signed paperbacks)


Prize Package Two! (signed paperbacks)

Prize Package Three!

If you can’t see the Rafflecopter form just refresh the page and it should appear!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Thanks, everyone, for your support! 🙂

Comments { 29 }

How to survive ancient Maya battle.

When plotting How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings, I knew I had to include a battle scene. Here’s how I learned to survive their battles. If I were to ever time travel back.

1. Dig up some of the nastiest names you can find.

The Ancient Maya were similar to other ancient cultures. They lined up on their perspective sides of the fields and then attacked. But before they attacked they shouted insults at each other.

At first I found this kind of humorous because I thought about first graders out at recess calling each other out on cheating during a kickball game.

But the more I researched I realized it was a ritual with a purpose. To get pumped. Similar to athletic teams before a big game.

2. Try to hide the fact that you’re a king or a noble.

Of course, the Ancient Maya didn’t do that. The kings and the nobles would have the most decorated headdresses, the fanciest quilted armor, and the most tattoos. But they were also the most prized reward in a battle.

My impression is that to hide their kingship or nobility would be shaming themselves.

Yeah, not very smart.

3. Carry a longer, bigger club than your enemy. Or have bigger muscles.

The Maya fought with a club embedded with pieces of sharp obsidian. Ouch!

Battle came down to fighting one on one. It was a pride thing. All the warriors wanted to walk away victorious with an enemy bound and demoralized.

4. Pray that you sacrificed enough blood the day before!

Before the battle, the Maya sacrificed blood to their gods, hoping for their blessing during battle. No surprise there. The Maya sacrificed blood for just about any reason.

If all these don’t work, then be prepared for the worst. You’ll be lucky to be a slave. Most likely, you’ll get your heart ripped out and decapitated.

Before revising the battle scene, I wrote out a battle with Chak Tok (shortened name) as the main character. He ruled Tikal from 360 AD to 378 AD. Below is just a portion. But it really helped set the mood before writing my own battle scene.

 The mass of decorated warriors stood at the edge of a field. Beating war drums matched the king’s heart in anticipation of the fight. For a short while the only sounds were the roar of the howler monkeys and calls of macaws and toucans sounding from the jungle.

 A voice broke the silence, then another. Warriors called out insulting names to their enemies. The hatred and anger behind the name calling filled hearts and the shouting intensified. Adrenaline pumped through bodies that minutes before were still and silent. Sweat beaded on foreheads, muscles twitched and trembled, ready for a fight. Clubs imbedded with sharp obsidian shook in the air and wooden bows stretched with sharpened arrows ready to be released. Restless feet shifted side to side and faces contorted with emotion.

The name-calling climaxed, breaking into a war cry. Both sides thundered across the field, trampling any long grass or bushes in the way. Chak Tok surged across the field. Clashing in the middle, each warrior fought with all his strength. The goal was not to kill the enemy, but the greater honor was to capture a noble or maybe even the king, to return to Tikal and offer up in sacrifice. 

 As the first wave of adrenaline ended the warriors retreated to their side. Any captives were stripped of their war costume and bound.

 The name-calling resumed and soon the warriors were at it once again. Chak Tok wrestled with his opponent. Each man taking and giving blows. Finally his enemy bowed under the Tikal’s king’s might and will. Each side retreated for the last time. Chak Tok considered it a victory. They tended wounds, bound prisoners and headed for home.

Many battles between the same two city-states could be fought and it did not always result in a winner and a loser. Sometimes the battles went on for years, resulting in the capture of elite nobles to be sacrificed and farmers to become slaves.

What about you? What time period are you glad weren’t around for? Or that you’d love to go back to?







Comments { 20 }

Launching a middle grade vs a young adult novel.

So how is launching a middle grade different than the young adult?

Publishing a middle grade brings with it the hope of reaching teachers and school-aged kids. Since I’m not in bookstores, my biggest hope is through word of mouth and internet searches: teachers looking for books and activities to go along with their Mayan/Aztec/Inca unit.

That’s why you’ve noticed some Maya style blog posts. SEO baby. J

I spent last Friday morning creating my teacher’s guide that will be available on my blog. (Or I came up with all the questions, vocabulary and literature-related activities. I still have to type it up.)

I looked over Anna Staniszewski’s teacher’s guide for My Very Unfairy Tale Life on her blog. Check it out. It’s done really well and I’m following her example. It gave me a place to start and that’s all I needed.

When the morning was done, I felt satisfied. I love to create. And the idea of organizing a teacher’s guide complete with questions and activities that looks professional appeals to the teacher in me. Just like working in Photoshop to create banners and badges. It’s a different kind of creativity.

But I won’t lie. I’ll be glad when it’s finished and up on my blog.

Preparing the teacher’s guide, especially for a book that has ancient history threaded into it, is just one of the differences between publishing a middle grade over a young adult novel. That’s also why I contacted the most creative and talented social studies teacher I know and invited him to contribute the teacher’s guide. It will be awesome!

The question is: do teachers ever look at the teacher’s guides offered on author’s blogs.

That, I don’t know. J

What are some aspects of this business you’ve worked on that is separate from the writing? Are you able to find balance?

Comments { 23 }

Seeing past the stereotypes.


We all have them. I know I do and I hate catching myself judging a person or place by their typical stereotype. I think of Texas and I see cactus and tumbleweeds. I think Dallas and I see big hair and lots of make up. Living in northern New England, I see the stereotype of New Englanders in action.

Sarcasm, fast-talking, aloof, educated…etc. And to some degree those are true. But beyond the stereotype are really nice people full of compassion. No, we don’t wear our emotions on our sleeves or chat up every single person we run into, like Southerners do. (Stereotype.) I swear I went into McDonald’s in the South and the girl behind the counter took five minutes to list the salad dressings.

But these stereotypes reach into fiction too.

I cringe when I read books where the churchgoers or the cheerleaders or the jocks are branded by the actions of just a few people, and I’m on the receiving end of that stereotype. These stereotypes usually create a villain where there isn’t one in real life.

These stereotypes appeared in ancient history too.

Medieval Europe was considered the center of the world. That was the happening place to be. Even though the commoners lived with their animals, and streams of sewage ran through their homes and in the streets and they rarely showered.

But over in Central America…who were these native people running around in nothing but loincloths? They must be backwards, not very smart, and just brutal to tear out the hearts of their sacrifices.

photo credit

Come to find out they charted the stars, made room in their calendars for leap year, knew to shower daily and keep clean and kept recorded histories of their people. They built awesome temples without cranes or beasts of burden. While people were dropping like flies from the bubonic plague over in Europe, the natives on this other continent were thriving.

I find this completely ironic and amusing. Facts like this only made researching the Maya that much more fascinating.

Of course, now I need to cleanse myself of the stereotypes I have of medieval Europe. J

In How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings, I worked hard to build a believable world of the Ancient Maya, weaving in their culture and their way of life through the eyes of a girl on an adventure to rescue her grandfather.

What’s the stereotype of where you live and how is it wrong? Or right?

Comments { 21 }

John Lloyd Stephens: the father of Maya archaeology.

Kids and adults long for adventure. Kids especially. They hunt for pirate treasure along the ocean shore. They explore the woods in hopes of stumbling upon secret forts.

For some people this desire to explore in hopes of finding something marvelous doesn’t fade away with time. It surely didn’t for John Lloyd Stephens. He might not have found gold or silver but he did find the handprints of an unknown civilization.

Maybe you’ll find a connection to Stephens, the explorer, but would you dare to do what he did and go where he dared to go?

One day he discovered the inside chambers of a pyramid mound filled with rubbish and stones. On the back wall remained hints of red, blue, yellow and green paint.  He had to lie down in the dirt to look at it properly. Could he pry the painting off to bring it back to America? He tried, but it was a permanent fixture of the ruins. All of a sudden his body itched.  His clothes crawled with garrapatas! Thousands of insects like grains of sand washed across his body like tiny prickles, finding their way into the seams of his shirt and pants. They sunk into his flesh, like tics, driving him crazy. Only way to get rid of them was to change his clothes, which were not with him.

This is just one example!  Yikes.

When would you have called it quits? 

Stephens was born in 1805 and grew up in a wealthy family in America.  No cars, no electricity, no television. I imagine Stephens sitting at a desk, piles of thick law books in front of him. His calendar filled with formal luncheons and meetings. But a spark, maybe that had been within him since childhood, burned in his heart. As each day passed, the spark grew, until one day he could take it no longer. The desire to travel and explore the big world burst out and would not be ignored.

In 1834 he left all that he knew behind and traveled Egypt, Israel and Greece. He explored the Egyptian temples, walked through the holy land and encountered the Greek ruins. His craving for high adventure did not end there.

Rumors of ancient ruins in Central America circulated society. Could the stories of Spanish soldiers be trusted? Who built these ruins? At that point in time the people of Central America were considered peaceful farmers. Why would farmers build temples?  The popular beliefs were that the Maya had migrated from the Old World of Europe.  They were either a lost tribe of Israel or from the lost city of Atlantis. Stephens had to know.

He had to see for himself and decide who built these ruins.   

In 1839 Stephens set out for Central America. He hired Frederick Catherwood to come along and illustrate the ruins.

Stephens explored, cleared land, working hard to expose the ruins so Catherwood could illustrate them. He hoped to find lost artifacts or great tombs filled with treasures, but none was found. He climbed the crumbling temples spread all over the countryside, contemplating this mysterious people, tracing his fingers across their hieroglyphics, walking where they walked.

He was in a race against time. These ancient temples and buildings were ravaged by the affects of time. Crumbling and overgrown with jungle, some of them were almost destroyed. He feared if he could not leave with proof of their existence that they would completely disappear.

Stephens returned to write and publish a second book about the Mayan ruins and it brought him a small fortune. Modern scientists credit him with being the forefather of Mayan archeology. Several of his keen observations that went against current beliefs turned out to be true. He believed the hieroglyphics to be records of nobles and kings.

He was right.

He believed the temples and the civilization that built them were not influenced by Europe, which at that time was considered the center of the world.

He was right.

The Maya culture was a separate civilization, which had flourished all on its own.

Here’s a link to one of Catherwood’s illustrations. Click here.

It was in my research on the Maya that I stumbled across the story of John Lloyd Stephens, and I found it absolutely fascinating! Part of the reason I decided to write about the ancient Maya was that I knew nothing about them! Why the temples? Why the blood sacrifice? I wanted to know. And yes, I found the answers! Many of them are woven into How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings.

Maybe we’re not so different from John Lloyd Stephens.

Where would you dare to go in the name of exploration? Or what neat stories of people or places have you stumbled upon during research?



Comments { 10 }