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Sunday, 1 November 2015

☀ℚ Bone Box - Jay Amberg

Thank you for joining us on the first day of the Virtual Book Tour for Bone Box, an Archaeological Thriller/Mystery by (, Amika Press, 256 pages).

“A…well-written, fast-paced thriller that follows in the footsteps of The Da Vinci Code and Indiana Jones.” —Kirkus Reviews

PREVIEW: Check out the book's synopsis and excerpt below, as well as a promotional Q&A with the author. Read the Prologue and the first six chapters with Amazon Look Inside.

Author Jay Amberg will be awarding one paperback copy of Bone Box to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.   Please do take part: comment on our post and follow the tour where you will be able to read other excerpts (☀), interviews (ℚ), reviews (✍) and guest blog posts (✉).

Synopsis | Teaser | Author Q&A | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops


On a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea in Turkey, an international team of archeologists discovers a stone box that first-century Jews used to rebury their dead. The box’s Aramaic inscription: Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. Sophia Altay, the beautiful French-Turkish archeologist who heads the team, tries to keep the discovery secret until she can authenticate the ossuary. She knows that people will kill to obtain the relics—and to suppress the box’s other contents, documents that could alter Western history.

Joseph Travers, an American sent to Turkey to evaluate the archeological dig, soon finds himself pulled into the web of betrayal, reprisal, and violence. In his journey through Istanbul’s mosques and palaces, the archeological sites around ancient Ephesus, and, ultimately, the strange and mystical terrain of Cappadocia, he comes to understand the epochal meaning of the bone box.

Teaser: Excerpt

Uncovering the Ossuary (from Chapter 2)

The sky is cobalt, but the sun is already low—and little light reaches the trench in which the two men work. The evening air is hot and still as though it has hung there for centuries. Sweat soaks the stout man’s sleeveless T-shirt and mats the gray and white hair on his arms and shoulders. His nose is bulbous above his mustache, the top of his head bald except for long strands of hair hanging limply over his left ear. He grunts as he pushes dirt aside with his trowel. The taller, younger man is more careful, but he, too, breathes hard as he whisks dirt with his brush. The discovery, far more than the exertion, is taking his breath. He is clean-shaven; his features are fine, his black hair thick. Neither man speaks until they have completely uncovered the ancient ossuary, the bone box.
     When the stout man stands, his head is still well below the trench line. He stabs the trowel into a pile of dirt, wipes his grimy hands on his pants, pulls up the front of his shirt, and smears the sweat from his face. He picks up an empty plastic water bottle, glares at it, and tosses it next to the trowel. The younger man sets his hands on his hips, catches his breath, and stares at the ossuary. The bone box, a meter long and seventy centimeters wide, seems to glow even in the trench’s shadows. Although he can’t read the words etched into the stone, he recognizes them as Aramaic. The symbols—the equal-armed cross within the circle within the six-pointed star—are familiar, but their juxtaposition is not.
     As the call to prayer begins, a cirrus horsetail swirls through the rectangle of sky. The voice barely carries into the trench, but the two men turn and stand still. The heavy man murmurs prayers, and the thin one bows his head in silence, his prayer of a different sort. A prayer of both gratitude and supplication. A prayer that this ossuary is what he yearns for it to be. The cloud’s wispy tail snaps clear.
     When the echo of prayer ceases, the stout man squats and digs his fingers under the corners of the bone box.
     “Wait!” the young man says in Turkish. “She should be here. We must wait for her.”
     Glowering across the box, the stout man grabs the hand-pick he used earlier.
     “No!” The young man stoops and presses his palms on the ossuary’s lid. “She must open it.” His face reddens, and his fingers burn as though the ossuary is too sacred, too hallowed, too inviolable, to be touched by humans.
     The stout man swings the pick across the young man’s knuckles.
     The young man leaps back, his eyes wide. His mouth opens, but words don’t form. Blood beads on the index and middle fingers of his right hand.
     The stout man leans over and jams the pick’s tip under the rim of the ossuary’s lid. As he pushes the handle with both hands, getting his weight into it, the lid creaks open. Keeping the pick in place as a wedge, he kneels and runs his stubby fingers under the lid. Stale air rises as he lifts the lid, holds it to his sweating chest, and stares into the box.
     Despite himself, despite his stinging fingers and welling tears, the young man steps forward and peers into the box. Making the sign of the cross repeatedly, he takes a series of deep breaths in an unsuccessful attempt to calm himself. Blood trickles down his hand and drops, bright splotches darkening into sandy soil. Blinding sacrosanct light rises from the ossuary, weaving around them and spiraling from the trench. He glances at the stout man who is unable to see the light, runs his hand through his hair, and gazes back into the box. He cannot draw his eyes from the contents, though his pupils might at any second be seared and his skin peel away. The moment is every bit as frightening as it is exhilarating. His blood boils—the Janissary blood, the blood of his lost ancestors, the wanderers and cave dwellers alike. There is much more to this even than he imagined, much more to it than she will at first believe

Bone Box - available NOW!

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Author Q&A

What is the motivation for Bone Box?
"My novels always start with a question—something that concerns me or something about which I’m really curious.  One question was What would happen if the child of the most famous athlete in the world was kidnapped?  Another was What if a cargo being salvaged from a World War II battleship was enough enriched uranium to build a bomb?  My question when I began Bone Box was What would happen if extremely controversial (in fact, history altering) documents were discovered at an archeological site in the Middle East?  I began thinking about how certain people would kill to obtain those documents—and other people would kill to keep the documents and other relics from ever becoming public."
What is your writing process?
"I begin, as I said, with a question that concerns me.  I usually have a beginning and an end in mind.  The fictional event at the beginning of Bone Box, the stoning to death of an old man, occurred almost two thousand years ago.  The final fictional scene happens currently.  The writing of every novel is for me a voyage of discovery.  I create characters and then take the journey through the story with them.  It usually takes me at least a year to get to know my characters, to really understand their individual motivations.  As each character grows (or fails to grow), I become more involved with him or her.  They are very much people to me.

I revise consistently, almost constantly.  Some scenes come to me clearly; some expand or contract or disappear entirely as I write.  In an early draft of Bone Box, for example, there was a scene in which backpackers find a mutilated body in a cave.  The scene sensationalized the story without actually moving the plot forward—and so I cut it entirely.

Most often, editing involves smoothing out the language, getting the words to flow, keeping the voice consistent.  I sweat a lot of blood onto the desk, of course, but I really enjoy finally getting a sentence, a paragraph, or even an entire chapter right."
How much of you is in your characters?
"I don’t completely identify with any particular character in Bone Box, but readers have mentioned that some of the sensory details, some of the descriptions of the setting and of the characters, sound like me.

My characters tend to be in deeper emotional turmoil than I am.  In Bone Box, Abrahim, my personal favorite character, lives in an emotional/spiritual world that I couldn’t frequent and still be able to write.  Over time, though, I got to know Abrahim pretty well.  I came to understand his world, but I certainly couldn’t live there.

Another character, Nihat Monuglu, the Turkish official, grew in my mind as I wrote the novel.  I came to respect his point of view even though I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with his methods.  My point here is that what I have to do as a writer is to enter my characters’ world and to really get to know them as people.  They do become part of me, but I don’t necessarily donate my idiosyncrasies to them."
What does the title convey?
"The bone box of the title is an ossuary, a stone box in which First Century Jews reburied their dead.  The discovery of the ossuary at the Saint John’s Cathedral excavation site near the Aegean Sea is an obviously important moment in archeological history—but it’s really of far greater import than Bone Box’s characters first realize.  The contents of the ossuary make the find epochal, a possible turning point in Western political and religious history.  What are the contents?  What effects do they have on the people who unearth them?  What effect will the discovery have on the rest of us?"

About the Author

Jay Amberg is the author of eleven books.  He received a BA from Georgetown University and a PhD from Northwestern University.  He has taught high school and college students since 1972.

His latest book, Bone Box, is now available from Amika Press. Amberg has also published Cycle, America’s Fool, Whale Song, and compiled 52 Poems for Men.

Prior to Amika Press, Amberg published thriller novels Doubloon (Forge), Blackbird Singing (Forge) and Deep Gold (Warner Books).

Among his books on teaching are School Smarts and The Study Skills Handbook, published by Good Year. Amberg wrote The Creative Writing Handbook (Good Year) with Mark Henry Larson and Verbal Review and Workbook for the SAT (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) with Robert S Boone.

Follow Jay Amberg:

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Giveaway and Tour Stops

Enter to win one paperback copy of Bone Box – a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. Thank you for posting this engaging interview! It was especially interesting to learn about Amberg's writing process.

  2. Interesting interview. Thanks so much for introducing us to this author and his new mystery novel.

  3. Thank you for hosting this blog stop. I would be happy to answer any questions your readers have about the story or the writing process.