Welcome Guest Blogger, Jacqui Murray

Today I have the pleasure of hosting prehistoric fiction author, Jacqui Murray. I’m excited about the release of her latest novel, Natural Selection, which is book #3 in her Dawn of Humanity series. I’ve read and highly recommend the first in this trilogy, Born in a Treacherous Time!

In this post, she’ll tell you about the latest release, but first, please check out the list of actual criticisms and tips that Jacqui’s gleaned from Twitter.

12 Writing Tips and 9 Criticisms I Got from Twitter
Those of you who are either established authors, in-training, or anything in between, you probably already know the learning curve to become a  writer is steep and endless. I’ve read a ton of how-to books, attended more than my share of conferences, and currently meet with fellow writers twice a month to discuss our passion. In each of these situations, no matter how often I attend, I learn something new. It will surprise none of you that I also find epiphanies in social media. Some streams offer one person’s insight on a chronic problem I also have. Others answer questions I couldn’t put into words enough to ask.

Here are some of the best writing tips I’ve gathered from social media the past year:

Get over your perfectionist tendencies.

If you’re having trouble meeting the minimum word count, it’s probably because you’re not being specific enough.

Keep a notebook with you at all times, and write in it. A lot.

Don’t compare yourself to other authors. Find your unique voice and write your stories.

If your story idea involves zombies, it probably has been done already.

If your scene sounds too much like a TV show or movie you’ve seen, cut it!

Writing’s hard. Good writing is even harder.

To uncover the plot of your story, don’t ask what should happen; ask what should go
wrong.

Don’t let your dumb show.

Perfect is the enemy of good.

There are those who can make a $75 off-the-rack outfit look hand-tailored. Not true in writing. You can’t turn a bad novel into a good one by attaching a pretty cover.

Boldly go where other writers won’t.

Criticism:

To share the criticism I’ve received, I broadened the scope from social media to query letter responses, agents at writer’s conferences, Amazon comments, beta readers, and well-meaning friends:

What this story lacked in ambiance, it didn’t make up for with anything else.

From a trusted beta reader whose day job is doctoring: “I find you have idiopathic
thinking.” When I asked what that was, she explained, “It’s thinking of unknown origin. In other words: What the f*** were you saying?”

From an agent who rejected my novel: I was whelmed.

About a too-complicated story I submitted: A bridge too far and a euphemism too short.

You promised a world-class thriller. I got a rerun of Fantasy Island.

“Why the h*** did you waste my time?” Sorry. Autocorrect. I meant to say, “Thank you for the submittal.”

I asked one agent for suggestions on fixing my story. Her response: “I got nothin’.”

“You wrote your MC right into a corner and she couldn’t escape, like a defective
Roomba.”

“Nothin’ to see there.”

Have you found any great tips on your favorite social media?

Here’s a brief summary of Natural Selection.
In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribe members captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.

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!

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

One Pack Ends, Another Begins

Africa
The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.


He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.

To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.


And fell.


He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping
impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.


Or a cliff.


When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.

Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.


He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.


I live.

But no one else in his pack did.


Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.

Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his
chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws.


All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal.


Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland.


Why did she go here?


He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than
comfort, or rest.

Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there.

But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.


Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.

Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention.


His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a
yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled.


While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good.


Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast.


He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting.


He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.


Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety.


Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright
world.


Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle.

Interested? Find out how you can grab your copies of this series and come meet Jacqui!

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 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.

Amazon Author Page Instagram Blog Pinterest

Twitter Website

Book information:
Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray
Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Editor: Anneli Purchase

Available print or digital) at:  Amazon.ca



Advertisement

Review of Variety Is The Spice Of Life: A Blend Of Poetry And Prose, by Sally Cronin

We’re just climbing out of a deep freeze that saw temperatures plummet to below -30 Celsius, that’s around -22 Fahrenheit for my southern friends. I can hear your teeth chattering from here.

So of course, I went skiing with my Dad. Just a pair of Canucks wrapped like Egyptian mummies, snow pants crinkling like cellophane giftwrap, careening downhill, as a toothy wind whistled across our goggles and helmets. A tad bit loopy? Perhaps. But a bonding and pleasant memory forged, another chapter written in our life stories . . . that’s a certainty.

In my opinion, that’s precisely what this wonderful compilation of poetry and short stories is about. A blend more satisfying than a cup of freshly brewed specialty coffee on a sunny back yard deck in late June. Perhaps I’m being watched by a marmalade cat who disapproves of my intrusion into her afternoon routine of prowling the garden.

The world spins billions of individual tales every day; most go unnoticed. That caterpillar munching on that leaf may struggle with a desire to remain wingless, despite the insistence of the butterflies that his inclination is unnatural.

Guilty secrets, locked for decades, in the conscience of an elderly woman are laid bare for a beloved few, while a village holds its collective breath as it awaits some devastating news.

We never know when a smile or small act of kindness may save a life.

Reading this book is like sitting on the front porch with a trusted friend as he shares some cherished lore. Every now and again, he pauses to give you an earnest glance before speaking in a gentle voice. “And this is the way of things, not all bad, and not all good.”

I recommend this book to those who appreciate fine wordsmithing about discovering gems hidden in the guise of the mundane.     

Have I enticed you to learn more and grab your copy? Yes? Then please read on to meet Sally and click on the links.

Sally Cronin is the author of sixteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fifteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities on her blog and across her social media. The Smorgasbord Bookshelf

Her podcast shares book reviews, poetry and short stories Sally Cronin Soundcloud

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Blog Amazon.com

Review of, The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint, by Keith Madsen

First off I want to start out by saying we had crazy weather last evening. I’m talking a major snowstorm and a thunderstorm at the same time! It’s called ‘Thundersnow’ and this is the first time I’ve personally witnessed it. Nothing like the sight of a blizzard backdropped by flashes of lightning, let me tell you.

But now I’m moving on to discuss a place that never sees snow, and a story that will nest in your heart forever.

Interested? Please read on!

Here’s the Gist:

In this commercial fiction novel with an historical backdrop, The Sons and Daughters of Toussaint, Isaac Breda seeks to renew the revolution of his famous forefather, Toussaint Louverture. He is depressed that a revolution which had so much potential, and which had cost so much, seemed to have so little to show for it. He resolves to start a non-violent revolution to make their freedom real. In the first half of the novel, the story is told by alternating chapters between historical sections, telling the story of Toussaint and his compatriots, and contemporary sections, where Isaac seeks to renew Toussaint’s spirit in his people. Isaac’s story intersects with that of his best friend’s beautiful sister, Marie-Noëlle. At first she is mainly focused on moving to the United States and making her fame and fortune in modeling. But her character develops into a powerful agent of change herself. When Isaac dies at the hands of entrenched interests in Haiti, the revolution falls on her shoulders. The immense challenge transforms both her and her country.

My Thoughts:

When I was a kid, my dad went to Haiti several times to help with a number of construction projects. While he often told me stories about his experiences, two things stick out in my memory. The photos of treeless and eroding mountainsides, with small shanties built at their bases, and the resilience of the people.

This is exactly what I found on the pages of this inspiring novel. A nation that has struggled to gain a foothold in the climb towards democracy, despite being under constant assault by dictators, gangs, and natural disasters.

Madsen paints a vivid and accurate picture of the trials and triumphs of a land under constant pressure, and it starts with the historical revolution led by Toussaint Louverture. As a student of history, I appreciated the switching perspectives between Toussaint’s day and the twenty-first century revolution led by Isaac. Bravery in the face of tremendous danger is realistically tempered with the protagonist’s bouts of self doubt and discouragement.

Buoyed by the courageous support of the people, his closest allies, and the love of his life, Marie-Noelle, Isaac finds the strength to face the monsters. With an eye towards changing the national political landscape and Haiti’s global reputation, Isaac learns to savour the smaller victories. One scene depicts him standing beside a litter free river that had once been choked with garbage. The locals had banded together for the clean up. He smiles even though his ultimate goal remains distant.

But this is about more than just one man, and the hearts of the people continue to beat strongly long after he’s gone. Marie continues what Isaac began as she lives up to the bold statement, “Nou pa pè!”

Meet Keith:

I am a retired minister, living in East Wenatchee, Wa., who teaches chess to children, works for AmeriCorps, teaching about the Opioid Pandemic, AND writing fiction!

Grab your copy:

Website

Liberty

Jeff tripped on a rock, stubbing his toe, and almost dropping Liberty.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” he promised the Bold. “I’m sorry but it’s time for you to go. The fog’s rolled in and that will help you escape Crusher. Please don’t cry, don’t be afraid. Liberty will take you far away. She’s a great ship. My Grandpa and I made her.”

The lump in Jeff’s throat felt bigger than a jawbreaker candy. He should know because he almost swallowed one, once. It was one of the scariest things in his life, almost as scary as Crusher.

Jeff reached the edge of Pine Grove Bay, and gently slipped the driftwood ship into the still water. He took the yellow nylon rope and watched as a gentle breeze pushed against the cloth sails, carrying the good people towards the bigger waters of Gull Lake. He smiled and waved, hoping that it would calm them down, as they begged him not to let go of the rope.

Wherever they ended up, it would be better than here. Better than the everyday meanness from Crusher. That monster loved to torment the Bold. He hated their art, said it was just as ugly as they were, just before he would wreck it. He took their money so they couldn’t buy food and threatened a beating should they tell anyone. Jeff had to make sure that he’d never let the beast see Liberty.

Jeff knew what the word ‘bold’ meant, but he was too afraid to stand up against Crusher, who was a lot bigger than him. He’d felt ashamed and after a while, he’d gone to the King and Queen to plead for help for the Bold.

But the King said that The Crusher was really just a coward and that it was up to Jeff to fight him off. The Queen said that sometimes there are just monsters, and they build something called character.

Jeff didn’t see it that way. He let the rope go and plugged his ears against the cries of the Bold. His eyes blurred with tears as he watched them go. One of the Bold jumped overboard, he was splashing in the water . . . no, drowning!

Jeff ran into the cold water, not worried about getting his clothes soaked. He scooped up the little man who immediately yelled, “What about Princess Carlan? She’ll help! She believes in us!”

“Um, I don’t know—”

“Yes! Princess Carlan! Take us back, Jeff! We don’t want to go!” The Bolds on the ship yelled.

Jeff was frightened but he thought that this might be the right thing to do, so he grabbed the rope and brought Liberty back to shore. Everyone cheered!

Jeff went back to the palace. The Queen wasn’t happy to see him soaking wet. She told him that he’d be late for school and that Miss Carlan would not want such a mess in her classroom.

Jeff quickly changed and set Liberty back on his dresser. He grabbed his backpack while his stomach twisted into knots.

He hurried down the sidewalk, his legs feeling evermore like cooked spaghetti with each step. But Princess Carlan was so nice. She’d always said he was smart, a good artist, and that his stories took her places, whatever that meant. She would help, he had to believe that.

The open doors to Gull Lake Elementary were bigger than a Blue Whale’s mouth, but at least there was no sign of Crusher.

Jeff closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was time to be brave; it was time to ask his teacher help.

Review of A Conflicted Heart: A Daughter’s Quest For Solace From Emotional Guilt, by D.G. Kaye

Well, we finally have the first hints of spring here, after getting pounded by snow several days ago, the temperatures are in the pluses and the snow is turning back to its original state.

I’ve just finished reading a true story about the life experiences of fellow author, D.G. Kaye. What are my thoughts? Keep reading and I’ll share them with you. 🙂

The Deets:

A Lifetime of guilt — What does it take to finally break free?

Somehow I believed it was my obligation to try to do the right thing by her because she had given birth to me.

Burdened with constant worry for her father and the guilt caused by her mother’s narcissism, D.G. Kaye had a short childhood. When she moved away from home at age eighteen, she began to grow into herself, overcoming her lack of guidance and her insecurities. Her life experiences became her teachers, and she learned from the mistakes and choices she made along the way, plagued by the guilt she carried for her mother.

Conflicted Hearts is a heartfelt journey of self-discovery and acceptance, an exploration of the quest for solace from emotional guilt.

My Thoughts:

If there was ever a story that gives a perfect example of peeling away the protective layers in which many of us enshroud ourselves, you’ve just found it.

D.G. courageously shares her story of being raised by an emotionally, and often physically, distant mother and the damaging consequences. I think most of us read stories to connect with the characters, and I found myself highly engaged with the younger D.G., as she tries to navigate through the emotional turmoil of her mother’s rejection; no child should ever have to go through that.    

In spite of her mother’s alienation, D.G. does find strong supporters, within her family and in romantic partners. The reader cannot help but feel relief and joy every time these people turn up in her life.

I grew to admire D.G.’s resilience, kind heart, and appreciated her brutal honesty. The pages are choc full of valuable life lessons.

Life is rarely fair, but there are bright spots that we can soak up, and D.G. is certainly one who has learned to do just that. No one is spared from disappointment and varying degrees of trauma. We all need to find our ‘people’ who will support us.

I recommend this book to anyone with a pulse.  

I’m giving this book, FOUR STARS!  

Please note that I only post reviews on books I deem four or five stars. Life is short and if I don’t like a book, I simply won’t finish it.

Meet D.G. :

D.G. Kaye was born and resides in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of Conflicted Hearts – A Daughter’s Quest for Solace From Emotional Guilt, Meno-What? – A Memoir, Words We Carry, Have Bags, Will Travel, P.S. I Forgive You, and her newest release – Twenty Years: After “I Do”. Kaye is a nonfiction/memoir writer and writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

Kaye writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and the lessons that were taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome some of the many obstacles that challenged her. From an emotionally neglected childhood, to growing up with a narcissistic mother, leaving her with a severely deflated self-esteem, D.G. began seeking a path to rise above her issues. When she isn’t writing intimate memoirs, Kaye brings her natural sense of humor into her other works.

D.G. began writing when pen and paper became tools to express her pent-up emotions during a turbulent childhood. Her writing began as notes and cards she wrote for the people she loved and admired when she was afraid to use her voice.

Through the years, Kaye journaled about life, writing about her opinions on people and events and later began writing poetry and health articles for a Canadian magazine as her interest grew in natural healthcare. Kaye became interested in natural healing and remedies after encountering a few serious health issues. Against many odds, D.G. has overcome adversity several times throughout her life.

D.G. began writing books to share her stories and inspiration. Her compassion and life experiences inspire her to write from the heart. She looks for the good and the positive in everything, and believes in paying it forward.

“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return, Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

D.G.’s Favorite Saying: “Live. Laugh. Love …and don’t forget to breathe!”

When D.G. is not writing, she’s reading. Her favorite genres of reading are: biographies, memoirs, writing and natural health. Kaye loves to read about people who overcome adversity, victories and redemption and believes we have to keep learning–there is always room for improvement! She loves to cook, travel, and play poker (when she gets the chance).

Connect with her and purchase your copy:

Website Goodreads Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Amazon.com