#IndieAuthor Book Blast for Against All Odds–Can You Help?

In place of a scintillating post about writing, I am making a plea for help in launching my latest prehistoric fiction novel, Against All Odds:

Xhosa’s extraordinary prehistoric saga concludes, filled with hardship, courage, survival, and family.

Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and determination, conflict and passion as early man tries to make their new home on what we now call the Iberian Peninsula. There, they find enemies as well as help from unexpected sources. To survive, Xhosa and her People must be bigger-than-life and capable of doing the impossible because nothing less than the future of mankind is at stake.

If you’d like to know a little more about Against All Odds, here’s the trailer.

I need your help

I need help in my book’s Book Blast. Here’s how it works:

  • You agree to tell your community about my latest book, Against All Odds, at some agreeable date between August 3rd – August 14th (or a custom date that works better for you).
  • I will include a link to your books and/or your blog post on the Book Blast post which will headline my blog for about two weeks. I want this to work for your marketing as much as mine!
  • Once you sign up, I’ll send you everything you need–blurbs, marketing pieces, videos, quotes. You use what you want, what suits your blogging style.
  • Just sign up on this Google form.

Before you begin: The form gives you options for what type of post you’d like. I can 1) answer a series of pre-designed questions, 2) be interviewed by you, or 3) send you one of nine newly-written articles about writing.  The questions–you won’t know what they are until you get them. The articles–you may choose but it’s first-come-first-served. When I’ve assigned all articles, no one else gets them. I hope this helps to drive traffic to your site to read a fresh, original article.

Here’s the link or fill in the form below:

I’ll publish a list of everyone who’s helping me on my blog with links to your Amazon Author page (or similar) with your latest books as well as to the post. Last year, it looked like this:

If you would like to help (and earn my unmitigated love), please click here or complete the form above to let me know which activity you would like to participate in. I’ll spring for the virtual coffee and cookies for everyone who visits!

Questions? I’m at askatechteacher@gmail.com.

Thanks in advance for signing up!


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, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

7 Westerns that are Amazingly Good

If you like reading about or need to create characters who are strong and passionate, who value justice over anything else, who respect the difference between right and wrong, who live by their wits and their ability to think problems through to successful conclusions, you might consider reading westerns. That is their core. A book in the western genre without these traits just wouldn’t make it.

So no surprise that during the lockdown, I powered through a bunch of Westerns. With their hard-driving heroes who tolerated lots of problems both from nature and man, they seem particularly suited to the angst I felt. Here’s a long list of books I read in this genre during April-May 2020:

  1. Rising Fire–a new generation of Jensen’s get themselves in trouble–just like their parents
  2. Die with the Outlaws–Matt Jensen agrees to help a friend of a friend herd horses to markets; that’s harder than it sounds
  3. They Came to Kill–Preacher and Jamie MacCalister help the transcontinental railroad clear the way for their tracks
  4. North of Laramie–Buck Trammel, former NY cop and former Pinkerton and current bouncer at the Gilded Lily, find trouble
  5. Pray for Death–Will Trammel finds out that a quick job to complete prior to his wedding day isn’t
  6. Buzzard’s Bluff–what does a long-time US Marshall do for excitement? Run a saloon in a small town.
  7. Ambush Before Sunrise–set in today’s western ranch with all the Old West plot points
–all received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Rising Fire

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In Book 3 of the Jensen Brand series, Rising Fire (Pinnacle Books 2020), Smoke Jensen’s son and daughter are in Europe where the doctor’s who keep his son’s illnesses in check can take better care of him. While taking a tour of the civilized centers of the various countries, Smoke’s daughter, Denny, falls in love with a Count who unfortunately turns out to be after her money. She finds out just in time, dumps him, and returns to the family ranch in Colorado. Fast forward ten years and to Denny’s surprise, the Count steps off the train in her town. Hoodlums try to gun him down and Denny saves his life before realizing this is the cad she once loved and now wants nothing to do with. He pretends his presence there is simply coincidence but Denny is suspicious, especially when he again acts as though he wants to court her which makes the US Marshall who quietly loves Denny pretty annoyed. It gets a lot more complicated from there. Lies are told. Innocents are accused of crimes. People are killed. And out of it all, a new love is born.

Another great story for the Jensen ecosystem. I love this series.


Die with the Outlaws

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In Die with the Outlaws (Pinnacle 2020), Book 11 in the Matt Jensen/Last Mountain Man series, Matt Jensen, the adopted son of Smoke Jensen, is an itinerant wanderer, cowboy, former-Mountain-Man, and reliable friend to those he cares about. He’s a hard worker but simply can’t make himself put down roots. When a friend of a friend needs to get a herd of horses to market, Matt agrees to help. He is between jobs and this is just the type of job that appeals to him. It should be quick, easy, and safe, except it turns out to be none of those. To get the horses to market he must first stop the rustlers trying to steal them and fix the town law that isn’t fixing the problem. Really, not that hard for a Jensen.

Though not Smoke Jensen’s blood, Matt Jensen in every way is the hard driving strong willed talented member of the Jensen family. He can’t turn his back on injustice and will always be there for a friend in need. His adventures always make for great reading. Highly recommended for fans of the Western genre.


They Came to Kill

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

I love Preacher stories. He was my introduction to the survivalist world of the old west’s mountain men, Americas hardy never-quit folks who lived off the land, got along with the Indians, and respected a life that was one with their surroundings. The mountain man called Preacher does that better than anyone. Preacher’s friend, Jamie MacCalister needs the old mountain man’s help. Jamie is as much a legend as Preacher:

“There’s no better fighting man west of the Mississippi. . . or east of there, either, for that matter. Jamie Ian MacCallister is one of the best-known frontiersmen in the nation, spoken of in the same breath as Kit Carson and Jim Bridger.”

The army wants Jamie to help them build the transcontinental railroad through the Apache-infested west. He agrees and puts together a team of tough folks–mostly mountain men and including Preacher–to do the job. Jamie knows that for one General, this is about more than the railroad. His son disappeared on a scouting expedition in that area and he fears he’s been taken by the Apaches. He knows if his son is still alive–however unlikely–MacCalister is the General’s best chance to bring his son home.

And so starts one of the best of this series. As usual, it’s filled with bits of old west wisdom:

“An unloaded gun might as well be a hammer, except you can’t drive a nail as well with it.”

“Santa Fe The streets, or so the old saying went, were laid out by a drunkard on a blind mule.”

“They were a nomadic people but didn’t travel much by horseback. He had been told by an old-timer that the Apaches trusted their own legs not to give out more than they trusted those of horses. They could run all day when they needed to.”

If you are a Preacher fan, or a Jamie MacCalister devotee, you’ll love this book.


North of Laramie

by William Johnstone and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

The Johnstone ecosystem of western heroes is vast, deep, and ever growing. I’ve read quite a few of the standalone and series but here is another new one. North of Laramie (Pinnacle 2020), first in the Buck Trammel Westerns series promises to be an excellent addition. Buck Trammel is a down in his luck former New York cop, former Pinkerton detective who ends up a bouncer at a small-time saloon called the Gilded Lilly. That changes when he defends a gambler accused of cheating and ends up killing two sons of a local big shot rancher. To this enraged father, it doesn’t matter that the gambler wasn’t cheating or that his sons pulled their guns first or that Trammel just defended himself. He just wants revenge. Trammel flees town, taking the gambler with him–otherwise, he would be killed. The two form an unlikely partnership that works well enough that they survive and make a fresh start. Well, at least for a while.

Another great story from the clever minds of the Johnstone crew. Keep em coming.


Pray for Death

by the Johnstones

5/5

In Pray for Death (Pinnacle 2020), Book 6 of the Will Tanner Westerns series, Will Tanner, US Marshall, is supposed to get married on Christmas. He loves his fiancee but planning this wedding is like pulling porcupine quills out of his foot so he jumps at the chance to help an Indian policeman, Jim Little Eagle, with ruffians who are shooting up his Nations-based town. It doesn’t take long to stop them–

“There was not enough intelligence between the two drifters to fill a whiskey glass.”

…but these two are part of a larger group that are themselves part of a town–Muddy Boggy Creek–created by not far from the Nations with the express purpose of supplying the Indians with liquor and owl hoots with a safe place to stay when pursued by the law. Will realizes he must clean out this town–the source of the problem–or he won’t have solved anything. That will take longer but Will is sure he can take care of it before his Big Day (well, pretty sure) and that’s what he sets out to do. Being Will Tanner, he won’t quit until he succeeds and he always has clever ways to face problems.

The first sentence of this book sets it firmly in the old west genre I love. Read this:

“Jim Little Eagle reined his paint gelding to a halt on the bank of Muddy Boggy Creek about fifty yards upstream of the log building bearing the crudely lettered sign that identified it as MAMA’S KITCHEN.”

This is another in the excellent Johnstone Old West saga. I am so happy it is a series.


Buzzard’s Bluff

by William and J.A. Johnstone

5/5

In the Johnstone’s Buzzard’s Bluff, part of their newest series, Ben Savage Saloon Ranger, Ben Savage is an excellent US Marshall, has been for twelve years, but when he inherits a saloon from a fellow retired US Marshall, he decides to travel to the small town of Buzzard’s Bluff, check out the saloon, and see if it is time to settle down. With the unlikely name of Buzzards Bluff, he takes over managing the Lost Coyote Saloon, making the current female manager a 50/50 partner. He quickly ends up in a battle with the other saloon on town for supremacy. This isn’t what Ben wants. His desire is to simply run a good business that is good for the town, but this other saloon has a different goal: to drive the Lost Coyote out of business.

This is another excellent Western you won’t want to miss from the Johnstone’s.


Ambush Before Sunrise

by B.J. Daniels

4/5

In Ambush Before Sunrise (Harlequin 2020), JoRay “Jinx” McCallahan must take over running her family ranch when her father dies. She hopes her new husband, T.D. Sharp, will help her to do this but he ends up to be lazy, uninspired, and a gambler. She files for divorce and he fights her every step of the way including making it impossible for her to hire wranglers to move her herd to their summer range. She manages to hire the nephews of her mothers friend, Angus and Birk as well as their cousin, Emily. When TD sees his plan foiled (to prevent her from the drive), he tries something else, and this more deadly.

Overall, this is a good story with a nice balance of western ranching and budding romance. The problems in today’s ranch are similar to those you’d find in the old west including horses, cows, stampedes, a chuck wagon, bad guys with guns, a black bear, and broken hearts. My only complaint might be that the writing gets a bit repetitive in some parts, sharing backstory, but not so much I didn’t keep reading!


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, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. 

Tech Tips for Writers #171: Turn Your 2-in-1 into a Tablet When Flying

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-time and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

Q: I’m traveling with my Surface Pro (a 2-in-1 tablet-laptop) and want to avoid having to stow it when they say “Turn off all digital devices”

You’re in luck. All you have to do is remove the detachable keyboard and it is now considered a tablet.

More on Tech Tips for Writers:

7 Google Apps Tricks Writers Should Know

My Internet Stopped Working

3-step Solution to Computer Problems


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, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Tech Tips for Writers #118: Top 12 iPad Shortkeys

tech tips for writersTech Tips for Writers is an occasional post on overcoming Tech Dread. I’ll cover issues that friends, both real-life and virtual, have shared. Feel free to post a comment about a question you have. I’ll cover it in a future Tip.

I find iPads awkward to write on. For one thing, they’re not geared for a keyboard. That’s not to say you can’t use a keyboard with them. What I mean is they’re designed for swipes, flicks, taps, and squeezes. The keyboard is an afterthought–to accommodate those of us stuck in the dark ages of typing.

Like me.

I’m not even a mouse fan but after decades of use, we’ve come to a companionable arrangement with each other that mixes mouse right clicks and keyboard shortkeys. So, when I got an iPad, the first thing I really looked for was the shortcuts. How can I do one flick, swipe, or squeeze and accomplish what five minutes of other movements would do?

Here are my 12 favorites, the ones that save me the most time so I can write more (or read more):

ipad shortkeys

Do you have any favorites shortcuts?


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, Against All Odds, Summer 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Genres A to Z: O is for Owner’s Manual

I run a series over on my blog, WordDreams, where I highlight a genre for each letter of the alphabet. Here’s the next in the series:

The A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post 26 articles on a themed topic. It’s supposed to be every day except Sundays during the month of April but I did this last year, found it way to busy for the likes of me, and decided to post mine ‘about’ once a month. Yes, it’ll take me a couple of years. Sigh.

My topic, like the last two times I did the conventional approach, will be writing genres.

This genre:

Owner’s Manual

Definition

(also Instruction manual, User’s guide)  – an instructional book or booklet that is supplied with consumer products such as vehicles, home appliances, firearms, toys and computer peripherals  

Tipsa to z

  1. Understand and Know Your Audience.
  2. Know Your Objective.
  3. Be Brief and Detailed.
  4. Include a Table of Contents.
  5. Be Conversational.
  6. Avoid a text-book look.
  7. Make purposeful and effective use of color and lots of white space.
  8. Make effective use of pictures and diagrams.
  9. Use a clean, readable san-serif font.
  10. Include a help-line number.

Popular Books

  1. car manuals
  2. software manuals
  3. computer hardware manuals
  4. sex manuals
  5. company start-up manuals
  6. business practices (any type)
  7. pet manuals
  8. parenting manuals

Click for complete list of these 26 genres

Click for a complete list of all genres I’ve written about

More O Genres:


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, Against All Odds, Winter 2020. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

A Geek Answers, “Who Am I?”

When you’re geeky, you don’t always think like the people around you or answer questions in the usual way. A writing class I took asked us newbie writers to tell the class a little bit about ourselves. Here’s how I answered that:

I am a multi-cellular, hairless, short-snouted, large-brained bipedal omnivore, evolved over millions of years within the classification of Primates, in response to dramatic environment changes on the planet Earth to become Homo sapiens sapiens.

I occupy the geologic address

34E43.29 N and 117E10.82 W

…the political address

xxxx xxxx Dr., Laguna Hills CA.

…the email address

askatechteacher@gmail.com

…and the internet address (my IP location)

xx.x.xx.xx

I am one of over 7.5 billion big brained creatures living on Earth, each with unique talents and traits allowing us to best fit our local environment. I am a social animal, living in a large community–too large to know my neighbors by the methods other Primates use of ‘grooming’. Instead, we use ‘gossiping’ and ‘storytelling’. I am surrounded by peers who feel superior to other mammals based on subjective factors such as physical characteristics or brain size. This primitive attitude has allowed my kind to take over the world but not run it well.  Without significant changes, we will not remain the dominant species for even as long as dinosaurs, sharks, jelly fish, alligators, Great Apes, or horsetail ferns.

I am no better or worse than any other life form surrounding me, only different.

What I’m NOT is:

  • my outward appearance
  • my mental skills
  • my religion
  • my sex
  • my opinions
  • my social life
  • my social media
  • my income
  • my employment
  • my politics

I am not more or less worthy of God’s goodness or Earth’s beneficence than any other form of life.

When I grow up, I’d like to attain:

the non-judgmentalism of my Labrador Retriever

the enthusiasm of my six-year-old nephew

the wisdom of my grandmother

the peacefulness of the Great Apes

the adaptability of viruses

the awe-inspiring beauty of the Rocky mountains

On a personal level, I enjoy music, reading, intellectual pursuits, teaching, my children, my dogs, and nature.

Any questions?

–published first on Today’s Author


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. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. 

2 More NetGalley ARCs–1 Great, 1 Good

Here are two more great novels you won’t want to miss that I got from the wonderful NetGalley:

  1. Into the Fire— next in the Nowhere Man series and maybe the best
  2. The Deserter — a personal tragedy turns an amoral criminal against his own kind
–received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Into the Fire

by Gregg Hurwitz

5/5

In Hurwitz’s latest in the Nowhere Man series, Into the Fire (Macmillon 2020),  Max Merriweather engages Evan Smoak, aka the Nowhere Man, aka Orphan X, when Max’s cousin is brutally murdered after giving Max an envelope to turn over to the press should said cousin be killed. Max resolves to fulfill his promise but the reporter has also been murdered. He tries to figure out what to do next but has no idea where to even start.  To say he is desperate is like saying the Mona Lisa is a nice painting. So, he turns to a stranger recommended by another stranger he serendipitously met in a coffee shop.

When Evan Smoak gets Max’s call, he wants to complete one last case before retiring his Nowhere Man persona, the hat he wears to solve unsolvable problems for ordinary people. Unfortunately, every time Evan thinks he’s secured Max’s safety, another threat arises until the final one is far too personal for even the Nowhere Man.

If you like brilliant crime solvers that have no quit in them, if you like clever stories that make you think, if you like smart people not afraid to use their brains, if you are a fan of Hurwitz’s Nowhere Man series, this is the novel for you.


The Deserter

by Nelson DeMille and Alex DeMille

4/5

Nelson DeMille’s latest novel and first in a new series (co-authored with his son), The Deserter (Simon and Schuster 2019), as we have come to expect from DeMille is a spine-tingling, fast-moving, complicated story of international intrigue. Chief Warrant Officer and Army CIS officer Scott Brodie and his partner Maggie Taylor are tasked with finding a Delta Force Officer, Kyle Mercer, who deserted his post in the Middle East for no known reason. When soldiers die searching for him, it changes his desertion from odd-but-probably-explainable to how-could-he-do-that. Despite the Army’s best efforts, Mercer disappears, finally showing up in an underage whorehouse in Venezuela two years later. Brodie and Taylor are sent to bring him back to America for trial.

Brodie is a wise-cracking smart-aleck while Taylor is a by-the-books investigator. Once they arrive in Venezuela, they go through innumerable problems, solved cleverly with lots of death-defying confrontations in what has become a lawless nation. Each step gets them closer to not only the deserter but unraveling the conundrum of why a patriotic kid from Iowa who achieved the highest level of trust the Army could offer–Special Forces–would dump it all to seemingly aid the enemy.

When I got this book I was worried. So often great authors like Nelson DeMille can’t deliver the same spectacular level of storytelling when working with another writer, even if it’s their son. I could give examples but I’ll keep them to myself. In this case, I needn’t have worried. The Deserter is true DeMille from its blistering pace to its nuanced understanding of the environment and its well-developed characters. I also worried whether I would like this character as much as I liked, say, John Corey. Again, I shouldn’t have. The author’s voice for Brodie is friendly with enough humor to soften serious issues while Taylor plays his foil expertly. Check these out:

“I have eyes in the back of my head.” “But your head is up your ass.”

Taylor asked, “Are you very cool in a dangerous situation, or do you just not understand what’s going on around you?”

“Mr. Brodie. Enjoying Caracas?” “Not even slightly.” “It grows on you.” “So does toe fungus.”

“The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.”

The only negative of this book is the endless hammering about the destruction wrought in Venezuela by their government and how heavily it weighs on its people. I appreciated the education the first time he built it into the story, didn’t mind it the fifth time, and wished I could hide from what is an impossible humanitarian nightmare by the fifteenth time. I started feeling guilty that I was reading fiction instead of doing something productive to help these well-meaning people.

Anyone else read this and feel that way?

–published first on Today’s Author

More thrillers

3 More Thrillers–Loved these

The Cuban Affair

3 More NetGalley Mystery-Thriller Wins


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. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2021. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Great Westerns from NetGalley

If you like thrillers but can’t quite get behind the world-ending apocalyptic plot points–would like something a little more down-to-earth–you very well may like Westerns. I do and thankfully, Netgalley is happy to feed my addiction with free books. Here are the last ones I read:

  1. Frontier America — Preacher, the most famous mountain man in literary fiction has another adventure you don’t want to miss
  2. Defenders of the Texas Frontier — watch the birth of the West and the Texas Rangers through the eyes on one who was there
–all received free from NetGalley in return for an honest review
–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

Frontier America

by William Johnstone
5/5
xx
In William and J.A. Johnstone’s latest in the Preacher series, Frontier America (Pinnacle 2019), Preacher is between dramas and takes this downtime to visit his son Hawk-that-Soars and his family in the Crow camp where they live. What Preacher doesn’t know is that his good mountain man friend, Scottish clan rancher Jamie Ian MacCallister, is also headed toward this Crow camp also. His purpose is as a guide, helping the Army find the Crow leader so they can negotiate a treaty with the Indians that would allow settlers to pass through this wilderness in safety on their way to Oregon. Even before the two sides meet, neither trusts the other. The young Crow warriors want to kill all Whites before they destroy the Indian hunting grounds. The Whites think Indians are ignorant savages with no right to the land where settlers want to live. The problem only gets worse when an old Blackfoot enemy of Preachers decides this is the right time to settle her score with the mountain man.
xx
If you’ve read previous Preacher books, you’ll be pleased that the massive Indian warrior and friend of Preacher, Big Thunder, is part of this story. I love this series. If I could give it more than 5/5, I would.

Defender of the Texas Frontier

by David Gross
5/5

In David Gross’ Defender of the Texas Frontier (iUniverse 2019), John Coffee Hays arrives on the Western frontier with his cousin, both looking for a chance to defend the new republic by fighting the Spanish, the Mexicans, or even the Indians–as long as they can be part of the wild freedom offered in this untamed part of the continent.

“…looking for action to satisfy our need for an adrenalin rush. We appeared to be anything but a disciplined militia unit. Each one of us was dressed in his own style…”

Before they finish, they are molded into a seminal part of the original fearless Texas Rangers., the toughest lawmen in American history and the scourge of criminals everywhere. Through the life of Hays, we learn authentic details about what went into making the west a lawful part of the young United States. Here are some examples of the detail and research Gross includes in his tale:

“…One of the most notorious Comanche war chiefs was known as Cuerno Verde, or Green Horn, of the Kotosoteka band. De Ansa gathered an army of nearly 350 regulars and about 250 Indian allies and then set off to find Green Horn.”

“President Sam Houston faced a continuous financial crisis. He disbanded the militia and allowed funding for the ranging companies to lapse. He was doing his best to keep the Republic solvent.”

“Another skill, imitating the tactics of the Comanche, was to learn to hang from the side of a mount and fire a pistol under the horse’s neck with accuracy.”

If I had to rename the genre of this story. I’d call it very creative nonfiction. Though using fictional characters to tell the overall story of building the West, there is more history than the traditional western with more in-depth detail, sometimes multiple pages detailing the historic backstory. This is a must-read for anyone with a real interest in the 1830-40’s, a period of history when America was extremely new and not sure it could survive, when our enemies were on our own continent and we didn’t always beat them. Enjoyable and informative.

View all my reviews

More reviews

Great Westerns from Authors New to Me

6 Westerns by One of the Greats

4 Great Western Reads from NetGalley


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, The Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Descriptions Writers Need–“As dumb as…”

A while ago, I published an article with 51 similes to spark the imagination as part of my collection of posts on how to describe in writing. That not only is one of my most-visited and most-commented articles, but readers also contributed their lists of similes that are far richer than anything I’ve come up with.

Here’s one I just have to share–from Andy Oldham, over at Christian Grandfather. I’m going to post it exactly as his email shared them (I hope I’ve included all the important credits!). He has 133 ways to say ‘as dumb as’ that include not only similes and metaphors but creative ways to ‘show not tell’ that attribute:

Metaphors for “He is as dumb as…”

Recently a Chicago lawyer told a judge he was “a few french fries short of a happy meal.”  This launched a discussion on the LawMarketing Listerv of ways to say that someone was “dumb as a box of rocks” without being boring (you never want to bore a jury). Trial lawyer Stephen Babcock of the Babcock Law Firm, LLC, in Baton Rouge, LA, contributed this awesome list of 133 metaphors:

  • 12 shy of a dozen
  • A bad spot on the disk.
  • A couple of open splices.
  • A few beers short of a six-pack.
  • A few bricks shy of a load.
  • A few cans short of a six pack.
  • A loose chip on the micro processor.
  • A quart low.
  • About as sharp as a bowl of jello.
  • About as sharp as a bowling ball.
  • About as sharp as a sack of wet leather.
  • About fifteen cents short.
  • About three cents short of a dollar.
  • All booster – no payload.
  • All crown – no filling.
  • All the lights don’t shine in his marquis
  • As thick as two short planks.
  • Attic’s a little dusty.
  • Back burners not fully operating.
  • Been playing with his wand too much.

For the entire list, click on Larry Bodine’s Law Marketing Blog.

–published first on Today’s Author

More descriptions for writers:

  1. Body Language
  2. Dogs
  3. Neighborhood

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 TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, The Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Why Self-Publishing is Right for Me

self-publishYears ago, I submitted my first novel to a list of agents who specialized in my genre, sure they’d love my quirky, clever book. I’d edited, re-edited, and run it by people I trusted–it was dressed for success. At that time, I didn’t realize that finding an agent was like putting a hood on a falcon while holding a mouse in the other hand. The reply (when I got one) usually sounded something like, Excellent writing but not what I need right now.

And then one agent called me! He loved my writer’s voice but would like a few changes:

  • Add new characters
  • Change the setting and the timeframe
  • Put more action in the plot

Basically, if I changed the entire concept, he’d look at a rewrite.

That’s when I first considered the possibility that self-publishing could be a better option.

It’s not just me, either. Many writers are looking at self-publishing. In fact, more books are self-published than traditionally published (by a lot). What surprises me is that agents don’t accept that self-publishing is a real, practical option for writers. Rather than wooing me away from that alternative, they seem to think they’re doing me a favor by considering my book. I hear how busy they are, how many unsolicited submittals they get, how they are looking for blockbusters, how they ignore submittals that don’t follow the guidelines. It reminds me of middle school dances where I sat in a chair along the wall, (almost) shaking, sure it was my fault no one asked me to dance. If only I was prettier, more outgoing, or more popular. Now, as an adult, it’s the same feeling; just the reasons have changed–If only I could write better, write stories people want to read, or action-pack my plot.

After the bazillionth rejection, I stopped blaming myself. I didn’t crawl under my writing desk or burn my manuscript or buy more books on How to Write or enroll in yet another conference that promised to get me noticed. I took my wonderful novel, bought a professional cover, and self-published.

That was a couple of years ago. Now, in the fullness of time, I don’t mind that it didn’t become a NYT best-seller. I am thrilled it sold enough to pay the cost of writing it (even covered a few car payments). The more books I publish, the more books I sell. I still remember the day I could quit the day job and devote myself to my passion–writing.

Let me wrap up with the big reasons why self-publishing is right for me:

  • It’s faster. I write, edit, rewrite, re-edit, publish, market, and start over. All of that takes a lot of time but less than the two years agents told me was the minimum time from signing a contract to publication.
  • I have more control. For better or worse, it’s on me to pick what works best for my novel. I like that and I trust myself to make the right decisions.
  • I can write what I want rather than what an agent thinks will sell.  
  • Because most publishers don’t do much marketing–especially for new authors–I’m not missing out on anything there.
  • I make more money. Sure, I bear the cost of production and marketing but I also get all the proceeds. So far, that has been much better than what I would have gotten from a publisher.

This discussion of self-publishing is my long way of letting you know my fourth self-published ebook, Survival of the Fittest, is available! Its tagline:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.

It’s available only on Kindle, as print or digital:

Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU


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 TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.