Celebrating Jacqui Murray’s New Release!

I’m delighted to announce that prehistoric fiction author, Jacqui Murray has just released the second book in her Dawn of Humanity series, Laws of Nature. Jacqui writes about time periods that few authors tackle, and she does it beautifully. Have a look at today’s quick Q & A for insights on the time period Jacqui explores:

  1. What is Lucy’s relationship with animals?

Lucy and her kind considered animals the alpha in their environs. They believed them like themselves—able to plan, make tools, and evaluate circumstances—and treated as respected equals, maybe even superior because of their strength and dominance. Because of this attitude, animals and man thrived together.

  1. Prehistoric fiction sounds boring.

Not at all. I used to call the Man vs. Nature trilogies “prehistoric thrillers” because the stories share many traits found in that genre—flawed super-heroes, death-defying events, a small group entrusted to save the world despite impossible circumstances. If you like thrillers, you’ll like these prehistoric fiction trilogies. The stories aren’t about grunting cavemen who beat their enemies with clubs. It’s about the evolution of what makes us human—culture, art, body adornments, religion, decision-making, problem-solving, and more. The trilogy, Dawn of Humanity, and this story specifically deal with the nascence of those characteristics. Without claws, sharp teeth, and thick skin, we relied on our developing big brains to outsmart enemies. That’s what I focus on.

And, unless you define “boring” as spending most of their daylight searching for food, fighting for their lives, and sleeping, their lives weren’t boring either. Those “needs”—the lowest in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—consumed most of their time but not all. They possessed curious minds (which arguably, Boah’s pre-Homo genus and Ump’s proto-wolf kind lacked), asked questions, wondered why, and made decisions based on thoughtful consideration rather than instinct. Both Lucy’s and Xha’s kinds are hundreds of thousands of years from discovering the beauty of art, music, poetry, and abstract concepts but because their brains were evolving the ability to handle those advanced concepts, I show how some of them might have begun.

Here’s the book’s summary:

In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa. Though they don’t know it, they will be the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!

Click Here to see the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/gbyA9rDSy9k

The book is Available (print or digital) at:Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Winter 2022.

Connect with her on Social Media:

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog: https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jacquimurraywriter/

LinkedIn:  http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:  https://jacquimurray.net

How I Spent My Break

If you’re looking for free mystery and suspense novels, I have one more BookFunnel promotion I’m taking part in this summer. This one ends on August 1st and there are nearly seventy authors participating. My Casey Holland mysteries, Deadly Accusations (#2) and Beneath the Bleak New Moon (#3) are also free, but only through BookFunnel’s newsletter campaign till Aug. 1. You can find the whole roster of books HERE.

I’m not sure that writers truly ever stop writing, even while on holiday, but I sort of managed it. I didn’t look at my urban fantasy for eight days, which became kind of difficult after four or five days. The thing is, when your mind is relaxed and all is quiet, ideas pop up.

This is how I found myself working on characters and an outline for the paranormal mystery I’ve mentioned in the past. It was great fun exploring ‘what-if’ concepts and creating characters. It was even more fun coming up with ideas for monsters. I’m trying to stay away from old familiars like vampires, werewolves, and ghosts, at least with this book. Creating monsters is a whole new challenge in my writing life, but I’ve read a couple of good books on the topic.

Speaking of reading, I read a terrific how-to book called Mastering Your Mystery by Cheryl Bradshaw. She goes through the basics of writing a crime novel, but takes it further in the second half of the book by offering helpful advice on marketing, publishing, and promotion. I especially liked that she went the extra mile to provide a list of awards and competitions to submit to, and a list of sites to help promote your work. Although I’ve read my share of how-to books, I always find that reading these books sparks ideas for current projects.

Last, but definitely not least, I spent a great deal of time with little Ellie, who’ll soon be one year old. Last week, she learned to crawl up a couple of steps and had her first ‘swim’ in the lake with her mom and dad. I’m always amazed by the astonishing changes during a child’s first year of life, and can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.

She’s hold a favorite new toy, a bowling pin.
She loves her food.

Taking a Break

Pexels photo by Vlada Karpovich

Summer’s well underway here in the Vancouver area with temperatures soaring as high as 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) earlier this week. As near as I recall, Vancouver hasn’t experienced this in the 60+ years I’ve lived in the west coast.

I have a basement office, which helps, as does the fan by my feet. The oven stays off these days, which is fine because I have a few slow cooker recipes that’ll get us through. I can edit in the morning, but by two in the afternoon, I started to wilt, although that’s fairly normal for me, anyway. Temperatures are easing slowly, thank goodness, as the city’s experienced a high number of heat-related deaths.

Meanwhile, my hubby and son are starting a two-week vacation tomorrow, so we’re taking time off to spend with family. I had my second vaccine on Sunday, a Moderna this time; the first was Pfizer. There were fewer side effects the second time around, which is good news. There’s nothing like having a mild fever during a major heat wave. I’m looking forward to visiting with friends again and entering a store without a mask, which will be optional (depending on the situation) as of July 1st in our province.

I’ll check my emails, but basically, I just want to take it easy, enjoy some downtime, and read books. What I’ve learned from vacations is that when your mind is relaxed and the to-do list is empty, story ideas tend to pop up, so I’ll keep a notebook nearby. Earlier this year, I began compiling notes for a new series I’m really excited about, but I haven’t opened the file folder in over three months. Perhaps, it’s time. We’ll see.

I’ll be back at it in a couple of weeks, revved up and ready to go!

I Read Canadian Day

Today in Canada, we’re celebrating a day of reading Canadian books for young people. I’ve already seen terrific Facebook posts by Canadian children’s authors, Darlene Foster and Eileen Holland to promote exactly that. As stated on the I Read Canadian website, its purpose is to “raise awareness of Canadian books and celebrate the richness, diversity, and breadth of Canadian literature. You can read more about it HERE.

When my kids were in school, reading was a high priority in elementary and middle schools, but it dwindled somewhat in their high school years. When I was in school, oh so long ago, the majority of our required reading was by American or British authors. It’s great to see that more Canadian schools and libraries are reaching out to local authors.

Some of the books I love are Darlene’s, who many of you know through her WordPress blog. I also want to give a shoutout to children’s author Eileen Holland, whose two children’s books found a home with a Canadian publisher a couple of years ago. If you have school age children in your lives and you’re looking for good reads, please check them out.

Darlene can be found HERE and Eileen can be found HERE

There are many other great children’s authors, but a google search will help you find many more. And if you know of any, feel free to share their links with others.

As it happens, I’m also reading a Canadian mystery author this week, named Winona Kent. Although Lost Time is written for adults, it’s still Canadian and Winona is another terrific author who deserves attention. Canadian books and Canadian authors have been working hard to raise their profile over the years. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that the number of Canadian publishers has risen all that much recently. Our country is a small market, so we have to work hard to gain a little attention. But we’re a tenacious lot with plenty to say. It’s always a thrill to find new exciting authors, not only here in Canada, but everywhere. 😊

How Can You Tell When the Year’s Nearly Over?

Before I start this week’s discussion, I now have links to the Writers in Our Midst event tonight at 7 pm. PST. The show will be live streamed on Facebook at Port Moody library’s FB page HERE. You can also access it directly from the library’s website HERE.

So, how can you tell if the year’s nearly over? It’s because the best books of 2020 lists are showing up everywhere. While I always find the lists interesting, they’re also a little discouraging as it becomes quite clear that I can and will never keep up on my reading.

I read about fifty books a year. After an active day, most of my reading is for pleasure, although lately I’ve been reading and studying a number of nonfiction writing-related books. I have read the work of several authors on the New York Times bestseller list (divided into categories), which you can find HERE. I just haven’t read their latest offerings.

It can certainly be argued that bestselling books don’t necessarily mean best written book. The Washington Post has chosen to name the top 100 books for 2020, books that stood out for them (HERE). Since I’m not a subscriber I couldn’t see all of the article, but I was able to get a look at their thriller and mystery category (HERE) up to a point. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the fantasy list of novels at all.

When it comes down to it, I don’t feel overly guilty for not reading all the recommended books. I spend a lot of reading indie authors (I’m woefully behind on that as well) along with the big names. I also post short reviews because I like to showcase authors who deserve more attention.

I don’t know if I’ll post my own ‘best of’ list this year. I did so at the half way point this summer, but we’ll see. I’m curious to see any you will create a best of the year list. If you are, I’ll definitely be taking a look at them!

New Ideas, More Time, So Why Not?

I know that many writers have registered for November’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and are diligently working on their stories, pushing themselves to achieve their 50,000 word goal by the end of the month. I’m always so impressed with those who take on this challenge.

I’ve never registered for this annual event, not only because of my day job but because I usually spend every weekend in November selling my books at Christmas craft fairs. But I’m retired now and this year the craft fairs have either been cancelled or moved online. I should have registered for NaNoWriMo but online courses and reading print books on writing and marketing have swallowed up most of my afternoons. I’ll be finishing up the last book in a few days and have nearly reached the point where I’ll be putting the focus back on writing new work.

I’m really excited about this. I’ve been making notes on two different projects since early summer and it’s time to get going. So, I might well be starting my own version of NaNoWriMo in early December and going straight through till the end of January or longer before I turn the focus back to marketing. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what happens, but it feels like a good way to spend these gloomy winter days where socializing is discouraged.

I still intend to take at least one day off a week to visit my granddaughter who’s about a 45-minute drive away, and sure, there’ll be a Christmas tree to put up and gifts to wrap, but all of this gives me something to look forward to these last few weeks of 2020.

How about you? Are you planning any creative, productive, feel-good activities for the rest of the year? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo and, if so, how’s it going for you?

Two Great Books For Writers

Now that the rainy season is here in British Columbia, my afternoons of yard work are pretty much over, so I’ve rejigged my daily schedule to reserve more time for reading and online learning in the afternoons. Maybe I’ll do more editing as well. Heaven knows there are still plenty of changes to make in my urban fantasy.

Those who follow my blog know that I’ve reading a fair bit on self-publishing and marketing over the past month. I’m also investing my time on great books for writers. One of them is Writing Monsters by Philip Athans, which is a great guide for anyone who’s writing horror, science fiction, or fantasy. What I really like about this book is the way he makes the reader think about why a monster should appear in one’s story. What is its purpose? How and when it should appear? He even provides a checklist of questions as we come up with new and innovative scary creatures. There’s plenty in the world to frighten us these days, and tapping into what scares us most is a good start to creating fictional monsters.

Stephen King’s book On Writing, was published twenty years ago and has been recommended to me numerous times, so I finally bought a copy and am just over halfway through the book now. I’m really enjoying his unique and candid approach which, as the title reflects, is more of a memoir in the first half than a how-to book. The book is filled with anecdotes from his childhood, teen years, and early married life, when he first wrote Carrie, a character he’s never really liked, by the way. Out of those experiences, are terrific writing insights and tips, which I’m jotting down.

If you’re stuck indoors and looking to improve your writing, these books might help. I’ve also started reading The Occupation Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The introductory pages have already given me ideas for a paranormal series I’ve been mulling over for several weeks. The ideas are coming along, faster than I can write and edit them, but that’s not a terrible place to be!

Welcome Children’s Author, Eileen Holland

Today, I’m delighted to host children’s author Eileen Holland. As members of the same critique group, Eileen and I have known each other for years, and I was thrilled when her publisher launched Eileen’s first Sophie Trophy novel last year. The second in her series, Sophie Trophy Too, was released this spring. Eileen’s written a piece that I think many authors can relate to. Enjoy!

Sophie Trophy Too

Writing Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too: Cultivating Scenes While Drifting Off to Sleep                                                                                                                

As the author of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too, I’m often asked how I came up with my story ideas.

I was teaching in Coquitlam, B.C. one day when two girls cried out, “Mrs. Holland, a spider is lowering itself into your hair!” I stepped away just in time, and the class roared with laughter.

Nights later, I was in the transitional phase between wakefulness and sleep when I realized that a funny book could be built around that spidery moment. This time, the spider could actually land in the teacher’s hair. And it could be Sophie’s friend’s Show-and-Tell spider terrorizing the teacher. Sophie could fixate on things, like saving teachers in peril—and spiders in peril, too. Sophie could struggle at school, her imagination and good intentions misunderstood. Young readers would recognize her. There are students like her in every class. Her foibles would help them realize that everyone has issues. Her big heart, humour, and honesty would help them warm to her.

Resisting the urge to succumb to sleep’s call, I flicked on the light and searched the drawer of my bedside table for paper. Unearthing a ratty NHL calendar page, I scribbled down several scenes. It’s lucky I did, or Sophie Trophy would never have been written.

There’s a reason the daily writing we do resurfaces in our thoughts as we drift off to sleep. Most of our daytime distractions take a back seat at bedtime: texts, emails, appointments, dislodged buttons, meal planning—the list is lengthy. Scene directions considered earlier in the day—the very design of sentences, paragraphs, and dialogue in order to build tension in our stories—sally forth from our subconscious as our waking moments dwindle. Barry Gordon, John Hopkins University professor of neurology and cognitive science explained what happens in Scientific American:

“The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously…. Only one or two of these thoughts are likely to breach into consciousness at a time…. Although thoughts appear to ‘pop’ into awareness before bedtime, their cognitive precursors have probably been simmering for a while.”

When my search for a theme for Sophie Trophy Too started, I realized falling asleep one night, that there was a way Sophie could get into mischief in every corner of the school. I envisioned a flashlight-crazed Sophie making shadow puppets … in the staffroom closet! The next morning, minutes prior to awakening, I imagined the principal, Mr. Homework, discovering Sophie’s flashlight antics … in the medical room. Both times, I groggily jotted down the scenes before they faded from memory. The storyline about a new student in Sophie’s grade three class came later. Sophie is certain they should be friends. But every time she tries to get to know her, disaster strikes in hilarious ways.

Due to my sleep-aided writing skills, I had two precious book-starter scenes anchored as I faced the morning. The day’s writing hours beckoned.

Eileen HollandEileen Holland is the author of Sophie Trophy (Crwth Press, 2019, ages 7-9, short-listed for the 2020/2021 Chocolate Lily Book Award), and Sophie Trophy Too (Crwth Press, 2020, ages 7-9).  

Sample Chapter of Sophie Trophy Too: https://www.crwth.ca/product/sophie-trophy-too-by-eileen-holland/

Amazon.ca: Sophie Trophy Too:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy+Too&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/Sophie-Trophy-Eileen-Holland-ebook/dp/B089G8WZHW/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Sophie+Trophy+Too&qid=1595883305&s=books&sr=1-1

Sophie TrophyAmazon.ca: Sophie Trophy:   https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Sophie+Trophy&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Kobo Kobo: Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too both available at: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/search?query=Sophie+Trophy

BC bookstores with copies of Sophie Trophy and Sophie Trophy Too on their shelves:

Western Sky Books (Port Coquitlam) https://www.westernskybooks.com

Kinder Books (Coquitlam) https://kinderbooks.ca;

Vancouver Kidsbooks https://www.kidsbooks.ca;

Five of My Favorite 2020 Reads So Far

I’ve read so many terrific books this year that choosing favorites has been tough. So far, I’ve finished 25 novels and am on track to meet my 50 book goal for 2020. Looking over my list, I haven’t read as much nonfiction as planned, but I’ll do something about that later on.

I like to read different genres, although I haven’t gotten to all of them yet. I also enjoy reading both established authors and new ones (or at least new to me), independently published, and traditionally published authors.

The Sinister Pig

Let’s start with the authors who are familiar to me, Tony Hillerman and Sue Grafton. I hadn’t read a Hillerman novel in some time, nor have I read them in order, but I picked up a copy of The Sinister Pig and loved it. Honestly, if you like mysteries and haven’t tried this author, to do. His protagonist Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police and retired lieutenant, Joe Leaphorn are great characters. He’s also a master at describing landscapes, and incorporating Navajo culture, beliefs, and myths into the plots.

Q is For Quarry

I’m working my way through the latter half of Grafton’s alphabet series, and my favorite so far is Q is For Quarry. She’s always inspired me, and I never tire of reading about Kinsey Millhone’s complex cases. Like Hillerman, she’s a master at plotting, pacing, and descriptions. I’m reading T is For Trespass now and fear reaching the last book she wrote before her passing. Maybe I’ll just go back and reread them all, who knows?

The Templar Legacy

Steve Berry was unknown to me, but I wouldn’t be surprise if some of you have already read this terrific author. The Templar Legacy is a contemporary story about an antiquarian bookseller living in Copenhagen and former U.S. agent who finds himself in the thick of danger when a former colleague appears. Her quest inadvertently involves the Knights Templar who were thought to have disbanded in the 1300’s. It was educational, suspenseful, and simply a great story with references to actual historical figures.

Saturn Run

My favorite science fiction read was Saturn Run by John Sandford and Ctein. Sandford is another great mystery author with a long list of books under his belt, so I picked this one up to see how he tackles science fiction, and it did not disappoint. The book isn’t set that far in the future and features a race between the Americans and Chinese to reach Saturn, where alien life has been detected. Really enjoyed this one.

The Daemoniac

On the supernatural suspense front, I just finished reading The Daemoniac by Kat Ross and I just loved it. Don’t let the title put you off, as this is more of an entertaining historical mystery than a horror story. Set in 1988 in New York, the protagonist is goddaughter of Arthur Conan Doyle and she encounters real-life journalist Nellie Bly. It’s very well done.

I could go on, but it would mean adding another 20 more books and this blog’s long enough today as it is. Happy reading!

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How’s Your May Going So Far?

Potted Plant, May 2020I hope that all the moms out there enjoyed a lovely Mother’s Day this past weekend, although I’m well aware that it must be exceedingly difficult for some, for a variety of reasons. This was my first Mother’s Day without Mom since she passed away last June, and I thought about her a lot on Sunday and Monday. I went out and weeded around the little rose bush that we planted in her memory. The pink blooms haven’t appeared yet, but there are buds!

On Sunday, I saw my daughter in-person for the first time in two months. She’s now in her last trimester and really blossoming. The six of us practiced handwashing, social distancing, and ensured surfaces were clean. We sat outside on the patio and enjoyed the steaks and chicken burgers my son BBQ’d.

White FlowersSpring and even summer-like conditions hit BC’s lower mainland last weekend. As you’ll see from the photos, nature is far more oblivious to COVID-19  than people are. My hubby has planted most of our vegetable garden and as my cat also passed last June, we’ve now hung a hummingbird feeder in the yard.

I’m really hoping that BC continues to be on the right track as it prepares to slowly open up after the coming long weekend. Unfortunately, we saw TV images of crowded beaches last weekend, with few masks or social distancing. One beach-goer who was interviewed said that if people are that worried about COVID-19, they should stay home. Even the reporter called this a selfish remark, but there you go. There are plenty of emotions and different attitudes everywhere.

Rhodos, May 2020I’m also waiting to hear if my employer will allow staff to return to work, perhaps on a rotating basis. Office workplaces are on the list of places that can re-open. It would be nice to see staff before my final workday on May 29th, but we’ll see how it goes.

On the writing front, I’m working on editing and promotion stuff, but I’m also reading a lot both for pleasure and/or research purposes. I’m taking part in my first Zoon panel discussion on Thursday, May 14th, at 7:15p.m. (PST)  through the Port Moody Art Centre. We’ll be discussing how to promote and market in times of self-isolation. If you’re interested, the Facebook Link to this event is:

https://www.facebook.com/events/230349908253190/

I think there will be a link somewhere on youTube after that night, but I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, I’d like to know how things are going for you in your part of the world? Are you venturing out of your home a little more? Making plans for the summer, or taking it day by day? Are you more productive than usual, less so, or about the same?

I think it’ll be a long time before we can put COVID-19 behind us, but every day is one step closer to resolutions, and don’t we all look forward to that?