A Visit from Author and Archaeologist Jordan Jacobs! Also: New Releases, Desolation of Smaug Review, and a Man Booker Round-up

Welcome, Jordan Jacobs!

Globetrotting archaeologist and author Jordan Jacobs is back with another exciting adventure for his title heroine in Samantha Sutton and the Winter of the Warrior Queen, out in January 2014.
Jordan's first novel, Samantha Sutton and the Labyrinth of Lies, had critics raving:

"Passionate Sam is a rewarding heroine to follow." -- Publishers Weekly
"Middle-grade readers will be focused on the mystery, pulled on by gripping suspense..." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Dig this book! ... If you're looking for a suspenseful story, then pick up this book and follow Samantha through hidden tunnels and haunted ruins." -- Time for Kids

Jordan is a real-life archaeologist and travel enthusiast who infuses his firsthand experiences and knowledge of exotic settings into the Samantha Sutton adventure novels. Didn't catch the first book? Don't worry! Each Samantha Sutton novel stands on its own as a thrilling archaeological mystery.
Samantha Sutton and The Winter of the Warrior Queen by Jordan Jacobs

Samantha is hesitant to join Uncle Jay on a second archaeological excavation. But the marshes near Cambridge, England, sound harmless after the sinister perils she faced in Peru. Or so she thought...

During the excavation, Samantha realizes the site could be the ancient fortress of Queen Boudica, who led an uprising against the Roman Empire. An amazing find! But Samantha's crucial discovery threatens to halt construction on a nearby theme park that will make millions for English Lord and eccentric landowner Cairn Catesby. Unfortunately for Samantha, Catesby is also the scheming head of Cambridge University's Archaeology Department, making him Uncle Jay's current boss. Catesby will stop at nothing to discredit Uncle Jay's theories about the excavation site's royal ties. When Samantha is entrusted with the protection of an artifact that undeniably links the site to the Warrior Queen, she becomes the target of unscrupulous men determined to get their fortune by any means necessary.

On the run through the snowy English countryside, Samantha must muster the strength and wit to protect the treasured artifact -- with her uncle's professional reputation hanging in the balance.

Jordan Jacobs' career as an archaeologist began with a love of mummies, castles, and Indiana Jones. He journeyed to his first archaeological excavation at age 13 in California's Sierra Nevada. A Stanford, Oxford, and Cambridge-educated man, Jordan has worked as an archaeologist at world-class institutions such as The Smithsonian and The American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Jordan is passionate about public awareness for the illicit looting of artifacts at globally important archaeological sites. He works with UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), where his recommendations have helped to protect historic sites and to alert agents around the world about precious artifacts smuggled on the black market. Jordan is currently a senior specialist at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley.

Here's Jordan himself, on A Day at an Archaeological Dig (not what you might expect!):

A typical day in archaeology is a little tricky to pin down.

There are lots of different kinds of archaeologists, for starters, and each have their own ways of doing things. The work done at universities -- or on university-led excavations -- is very different from what happens in cultural resource management -- which tries to save information that might be lost due to construction, or to determine whether construction should happen at all. And then there are the archaeologists who work in museums, gleaning new information from old collections, or the archaeologists in governments or foundations, working to protect sites or promote responsible tourism.

I've done work across these categories, and have a general sense for each. But within each broad category, the "typical" can vary, and I have only my own experience to draw from.

As I remember it, a typical day on a major university excavation involves an invigorating cup of coca tea, a steep march up a sloping Andean road, and the gentle shooing away of the fuzzy piglets who've clustered by the unit overnight. A long, careful day of digging follows, with emphasis on the paperwork. Every bit of information is saved. Dinner is rice and fried plantains and a split and roasted guinea pig.

A typical day in cultural resource management, as I remember it, involves an alarm set for 4:30, and a predawn subway ride, to a bus, to another bus to an obscure stop by the side of a freeway bridge. The day is spent beneath that bypass, shoveling sand, and dodging the litter and debris raining down from the cars above. The overwhelming feeling is "Hurry! Budget! Save the information you can!" Everyone is anxious, all the time. There is no telling when the job will end.

Museum and government archaeology are even more variable, if my experiences are any indication. A day may be spent with a delegation from a descendant community, whose interest in -- and knowledge of -- a collection or site may inform or dispute what theories archaeologists have come up with. Or, a day might be devoted to discovering how a collection came to the museum in the first place -- the archaeology of archaeology, in a way.

Linking all these experiences is a basic truth: that archaeology is a puzzle, where the solution can never be known. But rather than frustrating, the process is humbling. It's often surprising. And it's always a thrill.

on a project in Lazio, just north of Rome

Thanks for sharing with us, Jordan!

Meanwhile, ROW80. With a little over a week to go, I must admit to a very slowed down pace. I've sort of organized the edits that need to be done, for Druid's Moon (my own story that features archaeology!) and the vignette, but have not tackled them. I've been knitting and reading instead (and will update the knitting blog soon!) -- and will in the next post or two do my yearly round up of All The Books Read This Year.

Speaking of reading, if you'd like to read a 200 word story written following a prompt from Neil Gaiman, visit Budgie.

And if you have an hour or so and want to dive into a wintertime romance, Kait Nolan's got a brand new novelette: Once Upon A Snow Day.

If you've seen The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which, I emphatically repeat, is not pronounced Smög), then I've got my Hobbit review on the Forum. I've copied it here, so beware, spoilers!


One of the first items in the credits is "based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien". I wonder what Jackson et al think 'based on' means? I certainly don't recall this much action smaction from my many rereads of the book. But okay, other filmgoers seem to really enjoy these things. And I have no issue with adding a female captain of the guard. But the very fact of adding a female character means you have to have romantic elements? Isn't that a bit sexist? Never mind how non-canon it is for her and a dwarf to be attracted to each other.

I have some issues with the passage of time as well. It's all very well to ignore everything that happened in Mirkwood (the eyes in the dark, the enchanted stream, the sleeping Bombur, the boat, the hart and hind) but I think they could have done a better job of showing how many days and nights were passing, with the company getting increasingly hungry and footsore and desperate. Then Bilbo climbing up and feeling the sun for the first time in days would have meant much more (instead of everyone in the theatre going 'ooh! butterflies!'). I'm not sure why they didn't include the elves' red fires and feasting, and the company's stumbling off the path toward the lights, at all. I guess they had to save all their screen time for the endless spider attack. And the endless fight sequences in Lake Town. Oh, and the jarring cuts back and forth to Gandalf walking alone into Dol Guldur. As if it wasn't the full White Council that went in to drive Sauron out.

Then there are the three real errors:

Thranduil lops off the orc's head and then resheaths his sword without cleaning it!

The river to Esgaroth is all rapids - um, how are they supposed to use it for trade if you can't paddle up the river?

Gandalf drops both sword and staff in Dol Guldur - the next thing you know, Glamdring is back at his side! (I also thought it was pointless to have Gandalf hear Galadriel telling him to go to the made-up Tombs of the High Fells to confirm that the Witch King has risen, since it seems she already knows that.)

I'm also not entirely certain about the moon rising directly after the sun set. Was it a full moon, at least (I don't remember)?

As usual, I'm not a big fan of the all-action-no-character-development-or-story mode of filmmaking (I want to watch The Hobbit not a video game). Others have suggested that you can see, for instance, Bilbo's growth of character in his facial expressions at certain key scenes. I'm not certain that's enough. And I don't see, for example, what on earth the point of including Beorn was if he does nothing. He rants about orcs for a bit, and hey look, he's the bear watching them entering Mirkwood! That's it? The company couldn't at least talk to him? Or the intriguing way Gandalf had them enter his hall, why not include that?

And what's the point of including Thorin and Gandalf's 'chance meeting, as we say in Middle-earth' if you twist it so that Thorin actually says "this isn't a chance meeting, is it?"?

The one time in the entire movie I was pleasantly surprised was when Thorin and Balin first went through the doorway into the mountain, and got emotional. That was a nice touch, to include their sense memory of the very stones of the place.

If you don't like my rantish review, there's a more balanced review at BoingBoing. I like this comment especially: "a completely unnecessary and tedious finale action sequence -- and another potential theme park ride -- involving the dwarves, that dispels the magical effect of Bilbo and Smaug's back-and-forth." He also had the same reaction as I did about Bilbo: "Also regrettable: The disappearance of Bilbo. I'm not talking about invisibility. What I mean is, what happened to the story of this modest hobbit gradually gaining courage and confidence, and coming into his own? ... poor old Bilbo's tale is buried under easily 45 minutes of chases, captures, narrow escapes, more escapes, melees and other heroics, often comically-staged with acrobatics".

It's not a good sign when I find myself rolling my eyes at yet another sneak attack, or cringing as audience members laugh at scenes they're not supposed to find funny. I'll put myself through this torture one more time next year, but if Jackson ever gets his hands on the Silmarillion (and I desperately hope he doesn't), I'll have to develop a stronger will and stay away from the theatre completely.

END Spoilers!

We have a winner! The prizewinner of the Forrester giveaway is Kathy! Please email me your contact info.

Meanwhile, I've got more New York photos, this time from the Morgan Library. I thought I hadn't read any Man Booker Prize winning books, but when I was at the Library in October, they had an exhibit on past winners, and it turns out I've read these eight:

A couple of others are still on my To Read list, like Remains of the Day and A. S. Byatt's Possession. Here's the full list of winners; which ones have you read?

Do you usually enjoy films made from your favourite books (or do you get all snarky like I seem to)?
What will you be reading over the holidays?


Crystal Collier said…
Now I feel like I've been on an excavation AND to a museum. All in a blog-day's work, eh? ;)
Nice to meet you, Jordan. Is the roast pig dinner comprised of one of the pigs you shoo away in the morning?
I didn't mind the changes in The Hobbit, probably because I knew they would be there. You're not the first to complain about the reason for a female character though. I do think a lot of the additions came more from the studio wanting another trilogy. Take out the extras, and it would've been two movies.
Loving this interview, Deniz (and Jordan). I was thinking, as soon as I read the opening blurb of Winter, that Sam should know better already--of course Cambridge is going to be just as dangerous... :-D

As for the movie review... Yeah, it was about what I'd feared. I mean, I have no issue with having a female captain of the Guard (or at least some female fighters), but romance? I guess that Jackson thought his meddling with Arwen and Aragorn's story (as in taking it out of the appendices and inserting it front and center into the story so that everyone started wondering 'what Ring?') was what people had watched the movies for.

I'll wait until it's on video...
Deniz Bevan said…
One other thing I could have mentioned: it might have been more fun and interesting if they'd kept more of the Faerie aspect of the book...

I know I'm behind on commenting! Hoping to catch up in the next few days.
I think it'd be really interesting to be an archaeologist. I watched a documentary once about archaeologists, and there was a scene where they were having tea and arguing about the significance of some artifacts they had found. I thought it was fascinating. I haven't seen the new Hobbit movie, but I know what you mean about the long action sequences. That was the thing about the Lord of the Rings movies. The fight sequences always went on too long.
dunmurderin said…
Oh my goodness! I'll send you an email ASAP! Thank you!

Also, I think Hollywood has a dictionary with an extra definition for 'based on' that means 'original source material was located within same galaxy as this adaptation."
Misha Gericke said…
So far I've managed to escape both Hobbit movies, and I suspect it'll stay that way.

Of the Man Booker prize winners in recent times, I've only read Hilary Mantel's two books.
Deniz Bevan said…
I hadn't thought of that, Crystal, you're right! I should have reposted that photo of myself in a toga... http://thegirdleofmelian.blogspot.ca/2011/09/if-i-could-be-anyone-id-be-talli.html

I wouldn't have minded the changes so much, Alex and Eden, if they'd put in more of the sorts of things I like. Stories and songs, and a bit of slowness. I guess more people like action...

I think it would be fun to be an archaeologist, too, Neurotic!

Love your definition, Kathy :-)

I have the latest winner on my wishlist, Misha. I haven't even heard of some of the other winners!
Zan Marie said…
Great interview, Deniz! Happy Christmas. May you find some time to write!
Anonymous said…
There are so many things to see in New York. Looking at the library's address, I was close to it so many times but haven't been inside yet.

I hope to read Jacobs' books. I have the first Sutton book.
Lara Lacombe said…
Congrats to Jordan! Your book sounds great! :)
Deniz Bevan said…
Thank you, Zan Marie, and Merry Christmas!

Ooh, lucky you, Medeia! I'd like to read them too.

Thanks for coming by Lara!
Anonymous said…
Luckily we're almost certainly not going to get a Peter Jackson Silmarillion--the Tolkien Estate still owns the film rights to that one (unlike with LotR or The Hobbit), and they're quite opposed to selling. So nothing to worry about until it passes out of copyright, which won't be for many years.

Or, at least, nothing to worry about until Christopher Tolkien dies; who knows what his successor will do with the estate... and Christopher is getting up there in years... maybe we should worry after all.
An archaeologist AND an author? That's cool. "All-action-no-character-development" -- not a fan either. Hated the first HOBBIT film, don't plan on seeing this one. I read the book every year with my 8th graders, so I can't stomach the changes in the films.
Old Kitty said…
Lovely Deniz! I totally and utterly skipped through your Hobbit 2 review and spoilers alert cos I'm so booked to see this in glorious 3D in the New Year!!! And I cannot wait!!!! HOOORAHHH!!!!!

You know I always, always wanted to read Archaeology for my research degree and got as far as going to a couple of digs in Scotland! I will never forget the first time I found a piece of flint! Flint! LOL!!

Awwww now you see I live near Cambridge and there are rumblings that some of the surrounding greenbelt area are earmarked for "development"! :-( Not good!!

All the best to Jordan Jacobs! I do hope amazing Samantha thwart any silly plans for theme parks and boo hiss to sillier Lord Catesby!! Leave Cambridge and the shire alone!!

p.s have a wonderful and amazing Christmas!

Take care
Shah Wharton said…
I try to approach movies from books as separate, not expecting them to be complete reproductions. It's the only way to enjoy the similarities and a treasured piece of fiction without the disappointment. :) I personally cannot wait to see The Hobbit 2 and will watch all they put out. They've so well done.

Have a super Christmas and lucky 2014

Deniz Bevan said…
I'll just have to be stronger, Turin, and not go see the films at all...

Found out about two more inconsistencies!: also two more inconsistencies

5) The Orcs were chasing the Dwarves down the river and fighting the Elves in full sunlight? What’s up with that?
8) The Spiders did speak, but only Bilbo can hear them when he wears the Ring. Well, except for when he took the Ring off and stabbed that one spider, who then says “it stings” before dying, giving Sting it’s name. So the Spider’s speaking was a surprise, and the way it was handled was a surprise, but there is at least one inconsistency to this plot device. Does anyone care about that? Probably not, cause the spiders were creepy as all heck.

Deniz Bevan said…
I'm rereading the book now, Milo, to get the taste of the movie out!

Thank you so much Kitty! Hope you're having a lovely Christmas!

You're right Shah, best to concentrate on them as separate entities.

Happy Christmas and New Year, all!
Jack said…
I know of a friend who will be dying to get her hands on Samantha Sutton and The Winter of the Warrior Queen. I will have to let her know about it right off.

I am just in awe that you noticed the sword being sheathed without it being cleaned. I should have caught that because that has been making me cringe in movies since reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. I'm glad I'm not the only one, and now I am very ashamed of him. An elf should know better.
Deniz Bevan said…
Exactly! Especially as he was in his own halls - he could have just passed it to someone to clean it for him!
Andrew Leon said…
I don't think you have to worry about Jackson getting The Silmarillion. He already tried, and the Tolkiens won't let him near it. The family hates what he's done with Middle Earth at this point.
Deniz Bevan said…
Good on the family! :-)

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