#BookTour “Serpent’s Doom” by Connie di Marco

Serpent's Doom by Connie di Marco BannerMay 23 – June 17, 2022 Virtual Book Tour



Serpent's Doom by Connie di Marco

As San Francisco’s Chinatown prepares for the Lunar New Year festivities in the fogbound month of February, astrologer Julia Bonatti finds herself with three new clients, all in desperate straits who don’t seem to heed her advice. Tracy is the victim of a brutal husband with nowhere to run and Jeanette is worried sick about her son, whom she suspects has fallen in with a bad lot.

But most frightening of all to Julia is Frankie Chang’s dilemma. Frankie’s only eleven years old and he’s terrified. His mother is missing and no one will help him. Julia’s heart goes out to him but her hands are tied. Frankie won’t let her talk to the police and neither will his family.

Julia eventually discovers that the three worlds of her clients intertwine. Those lives inevitably collide exposing a dangerous smuggling cabal. Julia knows too much and becomes a victim of both a ruthless environmental group and criminals who will stop at nothing, including murder.

Kudos for Serpent’s Doom

Connie di Marco’s twin loves of Astrology and the detective fiction genre are on full display in her latest installment of the Zodiac Mysteries: Serpent’s Doom. It makes perfect sense to fuse these two disciplines in which intelligence, intuition, and interpretation play such a key role. It’s also a delight to see Astrology driving the plot forward rather than employed as a mere gimmick. This adds dimension and suspense to how the mystery plays out and di Marco’s wonderfully cinematic prose keeps you turning the pages in increasing anticipation.
-Christopher Renstrom, astrologer for the San Francisco Chronicle, SF Gate and Astrology Hub, author of The Cosmic Calendar and creator of rulingplanets.com

Intriguing and riveting, Connie di Marco’s latest Zodiac Mystery, Serpent’s Doom, is a new year’s firecracker of an adventure. Told with heart and conscience, Serpent’s Doom features a superb cast and setting, with a plot right out of the headlines. The best yet in this highly original series.”
-James W. Ziskin, author of the award-winning Ellie Stone Mysteries

Connie di Marco’s Zodiac Mysteries have it all: vibrant characters, sharp and suspenseful plots and comedic interludes. I love the added bonus of astrology and metaphysics and eagerly await the next installment.
-Karen Christino, astrologer and author of Foreseeing the Future

San Francisco Astrologer Julia Bonatti will need more than the stars when she tries to help a boy find his missing mother. di Marco takes us on a thrill ride from Chinatown to famed Bay City locales. An enticing mystery with compelling characters who pull you in. ‘Dear Zodia, is it in the stars that Connie di Marco will write more Zodiac Mysteries?’ I certainly hope so, because I’m hooked!
-Laurie Stevens, author of the award-winning Gabriel McKay suspense novels

Another page-turner with San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. I alternately wanted to shake her and cheer her on as she reluctantly becomes entangled with a boy who needs her help. A fascinating look into a different culture, where involving the police is a bad idea, prompting Julia to take matters into her own hands.
-Sheila Lowe, best-selling author of the Forensic Handwriting Mysteries and the Beyond the Veil Mysteries suspense novels

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery

Published by: Suspense Publishing

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Number of Pages: 300

ISBN: 0578326566 (ISBN13: 9780578326566)

Series: A Zodiac Mystery, 4th (Each is a Stand-Alone Work)

Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Read an excerpt:

Cheryl, the manager of The Mystic Eye, signaled to me. I was at the Eye to fill in at the evening’s psychic fair. She indicated a young woman in a cotton skirt and denim jacket. Her dark hair was cut in bangs and pulled back in a low ponytail. She wore no makeup and clutched a small, zippered plastic purse in her hand. I nodded to Cheryl and headed down the narrow side corridor to the small reading room I had been assigned for the evening, each space protected by a heavy drape.

I took my seat and cleared my astro program for my upcoming visitor. She was slender, young, mid-twenties at a guess. Her legs were bare under her cotton skirt and I was sure her denim jacket didn’t sport a designer label. She was hardly dressed adequately for the chilly night. Her jaw was clenched and her hands were red and raw, her nails bitten to the quick. As she took her seat across the small table from me, the collar of her denim jacket pulled away betraying darkened discolored skin at her collarbone. A bruise? She was so tense she seemed to vibrate. The electricity was difficult to ignore. Was it anger? Fear? Maybe an unnecessary terror of the occult? That might explain her tension, but still…that bruise raised a red flag.

I smiled, said hello and introduced myself. She nodded and watched me intently. I asked if she was familiar with astrology and she said she wasn’t. “Well, let me explain a little. Your natal chart is a map of the heavens at the time of your birth. It shows the gifts and talents you bring to this incarnation. It also shows the difficulties you’ll contend with in life. Do you have your birth information?”

“Yes.” She nodded and passed a slip of paper to me. There were two birthdates, with time and location, jotted down hastily. She knew enough to offer the information I needed to set up a chart. Perhaps she wasn’t as clueless about astrology as she first claimed.

“Can I ask you your name?”

“Tracy. Tracy Wyler. The second birthdate is my husband’s.”

“Okay, Tracy.” I plugged the information into the program on my laptop and two charts were instantly generated. “Would you like to focus on your chart? Or perhaps on your relationship with your husband?” She nodded but didn’t answer. I clicked on the bi-wheel option where I could see both charts at once, displayed in inner and outer rings. Then I set up a composite chart. I didn’t like what I saw. There were connections between the charts that indicated physical attraction, but I didn’t like the Mars and Saturn and even Pluto connections from her husband’s chart to her personal planets. I checked the composite chart, hoping something more positive would be indicated. As often happens in astrology, the composite echoed the synastry, or comparison, of the two individual charts.

This was not a good relationship for her. Her body language told me a lot, even without the insight of the charts. There was no choice but to go for it. She obviously needed help and I had only fifteen minutes to offer her what I could. I had to be blunt. She’d either listen or react with anger. “Tracy, you already know what I’m about to say. You need to escape this marriage.”

She gasped. Her eyes widened. She nodded her head quickly and tears sprang to her eyes. “I know things aren’t good but I don’t know what I can do. I have no place else to go.”

“He’s hurt you, hasn’t he?” The Mars and Uranus aspects to her husband’s Sun sign indicated anger and the possibility of violence if unchecked. There was that, but it was more the connections between these two individuals that concerned me. She reached over and rolled up one of the sleeves of her jacket. Dark bruises lined her arm. She craned her neck and showed me another mark on the side of her neck. “How long has this been going on?”

“We got married three months ago. It started a few days after. He keeps telling me I can’t do anything right. That I’m stupid.” She stifled a sob and took a deep breath. “He says…he says I’m so ugly that I better behave because no one else would want me.” Tears were filling her eyes, her breathing was shallow. I passed a small box of tissues across the table. “But then, when he cools down, he says he’s sorry, that he really loves me and he won’t do it again…”

“I have to say this, Tracy. I doubt this will change. Even with a lot of psychological help, even if he was willing…it’s a recurring pattern.”

“I don’t know what to do,” she cried.

“Do you have any family?”

“Only my mother and she’s in Indiana.”

“What does she have to say?”

“She says I should listen to my husband. After all, he works and he supports me.”

I felt a slow rage rise in my chest. What kind of a woman would advise her daughter to submit to physical abuse? Any kind of abuse? “What he’s doing is against the law, Tracy. You may not be aware of this, but we have serious laws in California against this type of thing. The police are required to arrest anyone accused of abuse. It’s not up to the cops to decide. They must arrest the accused party. All you have to do is call the police, show them what he’s done to you, and he won’t be coming home.”

“They won’t arrest him. They won’t. He’ll convince them, he’s so persuasive.”

I reached across the table and grasped her hand. “You don’t understand. Here the laws are different. The police have no choice. He’ll be held, maybe without bail, and he’ll be charged. That would give you time to get away and find shelter.”

She began to cry in earnest. “It won’t matter. Eventually he’ll get out and come after me. It’ll be worse than before.”

“All the more reason. Once the police take him away, you can go to a women’s shelter. Listen….” I had to break through her wall of hopelessness. “I keep lists of all kinds of resources for my clients.” I quickly opened a document on my laptop. I wasn’t attached to a printer in the tiny reading room, but I grabbed a notebook from my purse and jotted down the addresses of the three nearest shelters and passed the slip of paper to her. “The police will even take you there and they are not allowed to give out your location. And if you want, they’ll escort you home to retrieve your personal belongings. Do you have children?”

“No,” she said. “Thank God I don’t.”

A dark foreboding swept over me. This woman should not return home tonight. “What do you say, we go into the office here and call them right now? I’ll stay with you till they arrive.”

“I…I don’t know….” She twisted her fingers together. “He says he loves me, that he’s sorry. That it’ll never happen again.”

Yeah, right, I thought. Heard that one before. I waited, trying to see which way she’d go. There were aspects in her natal chart that indicated introversion and shyness. If she had met another type of man her fate would be quite different, but whoever this guy was…he’d use her like a punching bag.

“Tracy, do you have any idea how many women are killed by their husbands or partners in this country? I happen to know these statistics. It’s important in my line of work. Clients come to me with all sorts of problems.” It’s all well and good to talk about Moon signs and romance and money opportunities, but some people are already on the ropes, already at their weakest and most vulnerable, and one of them was sitting across from me right now. “Of the women murdered in the U.S. alone, ninety-seven percent are killed by their partners or husbands. Every single day three women die because of domestic violence. Those are real bad odds, Tracy. You can be safe. You can divorce this man and you can find a way to support yourself. It won’t be easy, but at least no one will be hurting you. And there are people who will help you.”

“I’m so afraid,” she wailed. “I…there’s something else…. I…oh God, I’ve….” She stifled a sob. “I’ve met someone else.” At this, she burst into tears. “If my husband ever finds out, he’ll kill me. He’ll—”

“Look, Tracy, first things first. You need help. You need to get to a safe place. Later, you can sort out all your feelings, but first you need to find shelter so you can get your head on straight.”

“I know,” she said, nodding.

“Come on. Come with me. We can have privacy in the office.” I reached out for her hand, a hand that was ice-cold. She quickly pulled away and clutched the slip of paper in her hand.

“I’m sorry…” she whispered. She stood and ran out of the reading alcove. I hurried after her, but she was too fast. She had pushed through the front door. I caught a glimpse of her through the plate glass window, running toward Columbus Avenue. I hurried to the door, hoping to catch up with her, but when I reached the sidewalk she had already turned the corner at the end of the block. I ran down the street but she was nowhere in sight. I sighed and walked back to the front door of The Mystic Eye. If she was afraid to turn her husband in, I hoped she’d at least head to a shelter to protect herself.


Excerpt from Serpent’s Doom by Connie di Marco. Copyright 2022 by Connie di Marco. Reproduced with permission from Connie di Marco. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring Julia Bonatti, a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Writing as Connie Archer, she’s the national bestselling author of the Soup Lovers’ Mysteries from Berkeley Prime Crime. Her recipes and excerpts can be found in The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook and The Cozy Cookbook. Connie is a member of the Crime Writers Association (UK), Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.

Catch Up With Connie di Marco:
BookBub – @Connie_di_Marco
Instagram – @Connie_di_Marco
Twitter – @askzodia
Facebook – @zodiacmysteries


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#BookBlitz “Becoming a Bedside Advocate ” by Kimberley Norris


Nonfiction / Nursing Homes

Date Published: January 3, 2022

Publisher: MindStir Media


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At some point in our lives, we are all likely to serve as bedside advocate for a hospitalized loved one. And, just as likely to be woefully unprepared when that happens.

The ordinary person has no idea how to navigate hospital chaos and engage with medical professionals on behalf of their family member or friend.

There is very often no support system, guidebook or coaching available to us. Yet the better prepared we are to work harmoniously with medical care teams, the more everyone involved will benefit.

This book aims to humanize the role of bedside advocate by sharing the author’s lessons learned along with valuable information and insight provided by medical care professionals.

Purchase Link



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#BookBlitz “Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg” by I. India Thusi


Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg

 Nonfiction / Law

Date Published: December 21, 2021

Publisher: Stanford University Press


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Sex work occupies a legally gray space in Johannesburg, South Africa, and
police attitudes towards it are inconsistent and largely unregulated. As I.
India Thusi argues in Policing Bodies, this results in both room for
negotiation that can benefit sex workers and also extreme precarity in which
the security police officers provide can be offered and taken away at a
moment’s notice. Sex work straddles the line between formal and informal.
Attitudes about beauty and subjective value are manifest in formal tasks,
including police activities, which are often conducted in a seemingly ad hoc
manner. However, high-level organizational directives intended to regulate
police obligations and duties toward sex workers also influence police
action and tilt the exercise of discretion to the formal. In this liminal
space, this book considers how sex work is policed and how it should be
policed. Challenging discourses about sexuality and gender that inform its
regulation, Thusi exposes the limitations of dominant feminist arguments
regarding the legal treatment of sex work. This in-depth, historically
informed ethnography illustrates the tension between enforcing a country’s
laws and protecting citizens’ human rights.


About the Author

I. India Thusi is Professor of Law at Indiana University Bloomington Maurer
School of Law, with a joint appointment at the Kinsey Institute. She has
worked with the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional
Rights, and The Opportunity Agenda.

Start reading Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg on
your Kindle in under a minute.

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#BookTour “Finding Light in a Lost Year” by Carin Fahr Shulusky

Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky Banner

May 16 – June 10, 2022 Virtual Book Tour



Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky
Roni Wright thought she had everything; huge home, successful husband, kids, and a brilliant career. That is until the worse pandemic in 100 years swept away the shallow façade of her life and she nearly lost it all.
This is the story of how a broken family navigated the most difficult year of their lives and found hope in the middle of so much loss. You will recognize many of the things that nearly broke us all as we struggled with pandemic restrictions and the new normal. But you will cheer as they work their way out of darkness into a better world.


Book Details

Genre: Family & Relationship, Biographical Fiction
Published by: Fossil Creek Press
Publication Date: May 2022
Number of Pages: 170
ISBN: 978-1-7362417-2-1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Read an excerpt:

April 2020 – When It Rains, It Pours

On April 1, I picked up my calendar, as I did at the beginning of every month—usually to see what we had coming up and to schedule more—and started crossing off everything. I had already crossed off the March trip to Paris. Now I crossed off this month’s planned trip to the banking conference in San Francisco. I slashed through the conference in New York. And with a little more pain, I crossed off the two Broadway shows to which I had tickets. An old college girlfriend was going to go with me to one and Dan the other. Broadway closed. New York closed. All crossed off, as was the St. Louis Symphony concert to which we had tickets. Canceled. Hockey, canceled. Three birthday parties, canceled. My appointment at the nail salon, canceled. Hairdresser, canceled. Canceled, canceled, canceled. April was looking so gloomy.

The only exercise I was getting was walking through one of our beautiful parks with the kids. Sometimes, we took bikes and rode a trail. But with April came gloom and rain and even that little bit of escape became impossible. Then the St. Louis County Executive closed all county parks. We were now required to wear a mask if we were out in public, especially indoors, and to stay six feet apart wherever we were. The gloom was growing daily. My life had no order. We were in free fall.

On April 9, we got a big shot in the arm, as it were, when $2,400 appeared in our checking account—a gift from the U.S. government. Officially the money was part of the Economic Impact Payment, but the payments were more often called stimulus checks. We just called it salvation. Like many families, we weren’t sure how we would make ends meet. This money was a gift from heaven—or the government, depending on your point of view.

By the second week of April, our school district was making an effort at learning. They asked parents to pick up “home learning packets” from the school. When I drove up to the school, someone handed me the packet for our kids’ grade levels. But when I got home, there was little explanation about the work. It was terribly disorganized and made little sense to me. Katlin wanted to learn more, and Oliver wanted to learn less. I just wanted more alcohol. Lots more. I decided hard times called for hard alcohol. Wine was OK now with lunch, but by dinner time, I needed a cocktail.

I set up a place in the basement family room for the kids to study. I tried hard to make Oliver work on letters and sight words. He would work with me for maybe thirty minutes, then he’d start disrupting everything I did. He’d rip papers and run away. Meanwhile, Katlin was trying to figure out her lessons with great frustration. She didn’t know what was wanted of her, and I couldn’t figure it out either. Oliver did everything in his considerable ability to disrupt our efforts. Most sessions ended with all three of us crying.

Not only was I failing at trying to teach my kids, I was failing at keeping them out of Nathan’s living room office. Every time Oliver ran away from me, he ran right into one of Nathan’s meetings. No order. No peace. No joy.

Excerpt from Finding Light in a Lost Year by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Copyright 2022 by Carin Fahr Shulusky. Reproduced with permission from Carin Fahr Shulusky. All rights reserved.


Author Bio:

Carin Fahr Shulusky

Carin Fahr Shulusky was born and raised in west St. Louis County. She attended the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she received a B.J (Bachelor of Journalism). After college she worked in advertising for GE and Monsanto. She was the first professional woman in her division of each. After 25 years in Marketing, she created her own firm, Marketing Alliance. She was president of Marketing Alliance, from 2002 – 2014. She is a past-president of the Business Marketing Association of St. Louis. Carin Fahr is married to Richard Shulusky. They have two grown children and one marvelous granddaughter. Grandma Carin has a life long love of cooking, even writing her own cookbook. In 2014 Carin retired to devote full time to writing. Her first book, In the Middle was inspired by her own battle to care for her beloved mother, Dorothy Fahr. Many of the stories Carrie Young’s mother tells her in In the Middle came from Carin’s mother. Carin is a lifelong member of Pathfinder Church in Ellisville, Missouri, where she volunteers in early childhood.

Find Carin Online:

Instagram – @cshulusky
Twitter – @shulusky


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#BookTour “Harley James and the Mystery of the Mayan Kings” by Leah Cupps


Children’s Middle-Grade Fiction

Date Published 05-11-2022

Publisher: Vision Forty Press


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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!



Chapter One: The Glowing Statue

 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.


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.


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 the Author

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 cofounder of Vision Forty Press, a small family owned publishing company.


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#ReleaseBlitz “Lethal Force (Axel Blaze Thriller Book 2)” by Bill Runner


Axel Blaze Thriller Book 2

Thriller, Crime Thriller

Date Published:  May 31, 2022


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“The cartel sends hitmen to take out Blaze and everyone he cares about.”

 What the cartel doesn’t realize is it has messed with a LETHAL FORCE.


Following the successful debut of Blaze Returns, Bill Runner is back with the second novel in the Axel Blaze thriller series known for its fast-paced brutal action. After Blaze puts an end to the Mexican cartel’s meth operations in Nevada in Blaze Returns, the cartel sends hitmen to take out Blaze and everyone he cares about. What the cartel doesn’t realize is it has messed with a Lethal Force. He will strike back. Hard.


Other Books in the Axel Blaze Thriller Series



Blaze Returns

Axel Blaze Thriller Book 1

A page-turning debut thriller in the lone ranger tradition of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp and Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man novels. The fast-paced brutal action of Axel Blaze, the new tough guy in town, is catching the imagination of readers of thriller novels.

“I wasn’t expecting trouble when I pulled off the highway.” Ex-deputy US Marshal Axel Blaze is doing what he knows best – dealing with trouble. Ten years in the special forces and five years in the US Marshals have made Blaze a trained investigator and expert in
combat. Blaze does not fight his opponents; he puts them down. He strikes first. And hard. Takes them out. Fast.

Deputy Marshal Carter has gone missing in Little Butte, Nevada. The Dawsons own the town. The Mexican cartel is moving in on their meth business. A gang war is coming to town. Director Flynn asks Blaze to return for one last assignment. It is up to Blaze to find Carter before all hell breaks loose.

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About the Author

Bill Runner worked as an investigative reporter before turning to writing.

He has created the Axel Blaze series of books. The next books in the series will be released in 2022.

Bill has been a lifelong student of martial arts and has trained in Karate and Krav Maga. Working the crime beat and studying the art of fighting helped make him the author of nail-biting thrillers.

Bill’s writing won him an award for debut authors at the London Book


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