Meet Guest Author, Jacqui Murray

Blog Post Image of The Quest For Home

One of the best things about being on WordPress is in meeting other authors. One of these great people is author Jacqui Murray, who has recently released her second prehistoric fiction novel, The Quest For Home, in the Crossroad series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga.

A short summary of the book:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with her life. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, the one destined to obliterate any who came before.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life, prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

Jacqui’s on a blog tour and today she’s going to answer one key question about her work, which is: Convince me they can communicate as well as it sounds like they do with just gestures, hands, and facial movements. 

I get this a lot. Let me give you two examples. First, have you ever been around someone who doesn’t speak your language and still, the two of you communicate by pointing, hand gestures, body movements, and facial expressions? Second, think of sign language. Very sophisticated ideas are communicated with just hands and facial expressions. That’s how Xhosa and her kind did it. 

Find Jacqui and her Books at Any of These Sites:

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

Jacqui MurrayJacqui’s bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for  NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.

Excerpt from Chapter One, The Quest For Home

Northern shore of what we now call the Mediterranean Sea 

Pain came first, pulsing through her body like cactus spines. When she moved her head, it exploded. Flat on her back and lying as still as possible, Xhosa blindly clawed for her neck sack with the healing plants. Her shoulder screamed and she froze, gasping.

How can anything hurt that much?

She cracked one eye, slowly. The bright sun filled the sky, almost straight over her head.

And how did I sleep so long?

Fractured memories hit her—the raging storm, death, and helplessness, unconnected pieces that made no sense. Overshadowing it was a visceral sense of tragedy that made her shake so violently she hugged her chest despite the searing pain. After it passed, she pushed up on her arms and shook her head to shed the twigs and grit that clung to her long hair. Fire burned through her shoulders, up her neck and down her arms, but less than before. She ignored it.

A shadow blocked Sun’s glare replaced by dark worried eyes that relaxed when hers caught his.

“Nightshade.” Relief washed over her and she tried to smile. Somehow, with him here, everything would work out.

Her Lead Warrior leaned forward. Dripping water pooled at her side, smelling of salt, rotten vegetation, mud, and blood.

“You are alright, Leader Xhosa,” he motioned, hands erratic. Her People communicated with a rich collection of grunts, sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and arm movements, all augmented with whistles, hoots, howls, and chirps.

“Yes,” but her answer came out low and scratchy, the beat inside her chest noisy as it tried to burst through her skin. Tears filled her eyes, not from pain but happiness that Nightshade was here, exactly where she needed him. His face, the one that brought fear to those who might attack the People and devastation to those who did, projected fear.

She cocked her head and motioned, “You?”

Deep bruises marred swaths of Nightshade’s handsome physique, as though he had been pummeled by rocks.  An angry gash pulsed at the top of his leg. His strong upper arm wept from a fresh wound, its raw redness extending up his stout neck, over his stubbled cheek, and into his thick hair. Cuts and tears shredded his hands.

“I am fine,” and he fell silent. Why would he say more? He protected the People, not whined about injuries.

When she fumbled again for her neck sack, he reached in and handed her the plant she needed, a root tipped with white bulbs. She chewed as Nightshade scanned the surroundings, never pausing anywhere long, always coming back to her.

The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. Sweltering heat hammered down, sucking up the last of the rain that had collected in puddles on the shore. Xhosa’s protective animal skin was torn into shreds but what bothered her was she couldn’t remember how she got here.

“Nightshade, what happened?”

 

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Production of The Blade Man in Full Swing

self-publishing[1]Just over a month ago, I blogged about getting the changes back from my editor for my sixth Casey Holland mystery, The Blade Man. I’ve been working on the book every day and the edits are now finished, although I’m still revising the all-important back cover blurb. With my editor’s help, I’ve just about finalized it, and am putting the blurb away for a few days before taking another look.

Happily, there were no substantive changes to the manuscript, which is why the process went so quickly, but I did write several drafts to create a plot that won’t have logic or continuity issues. Most of the edits involved changing the occasional sentence around, choosing a different word, and catching typos. She’s also pointed out favorite words that I use repeatedly (Find and Replace are my favorite editing tools in Word). I’m also enduring a lifelong battles with commas.

I’ve been working on answering that 5-page questionnaire the jacket designer, Deranged Doctor Design, sent me. This week’s task was to look at other mystery novel covers to see what types of covers I’m drawn to. A search on Amazon provide to be an interesting exercise. It clarified for me things that I really like about covers and things I don’t.

I was also asked to visit DDD’s website to identify some of my favorite covers, which I did. By the way, if you’re curious, visit derangeddoctordesign. They produce a wide variety of covers in different genres. They always respond to my emails promptly and are courteous, patient people.

The cover reveal likely won’t be happen until the latter half of December or possibly January, which is fine, given that there are plenty of other production tasks ahead, not to mention some personal events that include my daughter’s wedding in three weeks and their move into a new house.

Soon, I’ll start formatting the book, which won’t be as daunting as it was with Knock Knock, since I already have the template set up. It’s an exciting, productive time, and at some point I’ll nail down a cover reveal date and a launch date. Stay tuned!

Luck and the Writer

Four_Leaf_Clover_03[1]Back in February, I discussed the concept of success, after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success. Today, I want to focus on the concept of luck.

I read an interesting blog about a month ago by thriller writer Joe Konrath. He writes an excellent blog about the writing biz, and as a hybrid author with a substantial backlist, he has a lot to say about publishing, promoting, and marketing. You can find his blog HERE. He also has an interesting take on why most authors’ marketing plans won’t work. What it comes to, in his view, is luck. But the question then becomes, how does one become luckier?

Some people call luck a matter of preparation meeting opportunity. I don’t disagree. I remember reading an article about a Canadian woman who’d been incredibly lucky at winning contests. She had a room filled with prizes. When asked what made her so lucky, she said it was because she probably entered more contests than most people. In fact, she had turned contest-entering into a full time job.

Yesterday, I came across a similar article about folks who constantly win sweepstake prizes. In fact, there’s a whole group of them who take this so seriously that they’re referred to as sweepers. You can read more about them HERE. I was struck by the comment from one of the frequent contest winners, who stated that luck had nothing to do with her large haul. It was about effort and persistence.

Sometimes luck truly does seem to come out of the blue. Maybe a horrific car crash you managed to avoid by just one minute has nothing to do with persistence and effort. Maybe carrying a four-leaf clover or talisman does help some people, who knows?

Personally, I believe that luck often emerges from a series of decisions, opportunities, and right-time, right-place circumstances. But even that’s not the whole picture. Maybe there’s no rhyme nor reason why someone’s thriller gains fabulous attention and mega sales while an equally well-crafted thriller with a gorgeous cover and an amazing back cover blurb doesn’t. We could speculate that if the “unlucky” author had targeted his market differently or tried a different promotion strategy, then maybe it would have made a difference. On the other hand, maybe it wouldn’t have. We can drive ourselves crazy wondering over stuff like that.

Joe’s answer to making one’s luck is to keep writing books. He doesn’t discount using ads, blogs, social media, etc, for promotion, but he makes it clear that those efforts won’t guarantee any sales. Writing is the only thing you can really control, he says, and if you keep doing it and getting better at it, you just might get lucky enough to have a bestseller on your hands. For many of us, isn’t that the dream which lets our imaginations run wild, that gets us out of the bed every morning and open to all possibilities?

An Inspiring Family Conversation

Cartoon of Girl WritingI don’t often discuss my writing projects with my family. In fact, many writers I know don’t discuss their work in general, some because they feel it might jinx it or diminish their enthusiasm. Others believe that non-writing friends and family wouldn’t be interested. Let’s face it, there’s a reason no one’s made a TV show or reality contest about novel writing. It’d be pretty boring to watch.

My husband, daughter, and future son-law are all accountants, and my son is a science major working in the tech field. You can well imagine that my job doesn’t really fit into conversations easily, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me that no one’s ever asked “how’d your writing go today?” Most days, the answer would be pretty vague and monosyllabic.

This weekend, my daughter was helping me add hyperlinks to my ebooks and later, while we were having dinner she asked when my next book would be published. She also asked me about my creative process. She wanted to know if I create a situation, incident, or plot and then weave my series characters to fit that, or do I look at my characters first and create a situation to fit them? It was a great question, which launched a discussion about the creative process.

You see, my husband also paints water colors as a hobby. My daughter is a terrific writer and articulate communicator in her own right. She exceled at novel analyses in English classes and wrote songs and played guitar in her late teens. Both my husband and daughter have friends who are professional artists, so creativity isn’t completely foreign to their world.

It was a fascinating discussion because I learned things about my husband’s hobby that I never knew (he often gets up at the crack of down and experiments with drawings before he leaves for work), and I learned how my daughter’s friend arrives at the themes and decisions that appear in her paintings.

Through the half hour or so we spent sharing experiences and ideas, I became more excited at the prospect of finishing my current WIPS, of exploring topics in ways that I hadn’t considered in a long time. It was enlightening, inspiring, and a great boost. Isn’t it amazing where inspiration comes from?

Book Launch Memories

Speaking at Golden Ears, Oct 21, 2014This week, I had the pleasure of attending a book launch for a colleague who’s about to have her first children’s book published. It’s been a long haul for her, and I wanted to get my hot-off-the-press copy. Her name, by the way, is Eileen Holland and her book is Sophie Trophy (I hope to have her guest blog in the near future!). It’s a delightful story for the 8 to 10 age group.

Her event Monday night was held in the same room where I launched my second novel back in 2008. Seeing Eileen’s happiness and exuberance brought back great memories of other book launches I’ve attended and hosted, and I have to say there’ve been a few of them. Looking back, I’ve attended launches at arts centers, community halls, libraries, bookstores, a pub, a restaurant, a church, and of course, there’s been a few Facebook online launches.

My first launch back in 1995 is still one of my favorites, not just because this was my first published book but because it was a house party for friends, families, and writing colleagues. We served a lot of food and wine that night, I sold books, and everyone had a good time. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about being out of the room by a certain time or cleaning up early. Honestly, if I hold another one, I might just do it again, which brings me to my second point. Will I ever do another launch? Even though, I’ll be bringing out book number ten over the next few months, it’s not a question I can answer right now.

While I didn’t hold a physical launch for my latest Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, I did the usual launch-day announcements. It was the third week of November and I was in over my head with weekend craft fairs, the day job, and my publisher’s launch of one of my novellas a week after that.

While it’s still gratifying to see a new book in print, I’m not overly excited to be the center of attention again. The speech preparation, venue rental, RSVPs, and catering issues have always caused this introvert a fair bit of anxiety. Still, maybe another house party is the answer. We’ll see. The Blade Man is coming either later this year or early next…I’ll let you know when.

A Writer’s Strength

thinking-writing[1]I recently came across an interesting article in Entrepreneur entitled “12 Things Mentally Strong People Do That No One Else Does”. What struck me most about this piece is that you could substitute the word ‘people’ for ‘writers’ and it would be just as apt, if not more so.

For writers who plan to be in the biz for the long haul, I’d say those 12 ‘things’ are essential to survival and success, however you define that word. You can find the article HERE, but I want to share the five tips that stood out for me most:

.           Mentally strong people learn to say no

.           They overcome their inner critic

.           They delay gratification

.           They don’t blame others

.           They respect, and even like, their competitors

Two others, expressing gratitude and creating my own definition of success, are things I’ve already been doing a while. The one I’m working on these days is exposing myself to pain, which extends beyond my writing life.

If I can do better at the ones I’m stumbling over, perhaps the desire and stamina to write, publish, market and sell books for another twenty+ years will stay with me as well.

My Own November Challenge

I’ve often been tempted to participate in the amazing Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where writers commit to writing 50,000 words from Nov 1 – Nov. 30. It appears to be a great way to start a novel, but November is absolutely the worst time of year for me to attempt it. You see, I have my own writing challenges every November, especially this one.

This fall I’m releasing two books (more about the second one next week), promoting both through extra blogs and social networking, plus selling print copies of my books at four different craft fairs.

All this is being done while maintaining the day job and starting Christmas preparations. To keep myself sane and happy, I also spend the first hour of every day writing. After all, it’s what I most love to do.

Keeping all these balls in the air can be difficult, yet I need to test myself, not just as a writer, but as a business person. I want to see what I’m capable of and to learn where I need to cut back. I’m in the thick of things now. It’s exhilarating and exhausting, and I can’t say there’s a lot of peace of mind at this point, but I’ll be able to assess this a little more clearly at the end of this year. Meanwhile, I wish all those who are attempting Nanowrimo the best of luck!

Knock Knock, front cover

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/y6wejnls

Apple: http://tinyurl.com/y96xscpv

Amazon: myBook.to/KnockKnock