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

Labor Day 2019

Labor Day is meant to celebrate the contributions we all make to our country. Here at Today’s Author, we want to celebrate the contributions we all make with our creative efforts.  What better day to spend a few minutes, choose a prompt or two (or more) from our archive of Write Now prompts and enjoy the labors of all the talented authors in the Today’s Author community!

LaborDay

Interview with Nolan White

Nolan White
In the internet era, writing has become a lot less isolated, even if many of the interactions we have are mostly virtual. It’s a lot easier to encounter people facing the same struggles so we can commiserate or share tips. Nolan White is one such virtual soul I’ve met on the journey and I got him to talk a bit about his work and his path toward publication.
Are you published or trying to be?
Yes, trying to be. This month I’m putting the finishing touches on the first Pedigree Nation trilogy. Ten years ago I started out with Great Days Outdoors magazine as their proofreader, then moved up to assistant editor. Occasionally, I wrote articles for it as well. I’ve written two dozen short stories and finished the manuscript on two novels.

When did you start writing, when did you start calling yourself a writer and when did you decide that being published was a goal?

While working for my hometown newspaper in ad sales, I was tasked with producing a tabloid. Since I had to also write its contents, I became a writer. One of my articles featured a local contestant in a scholarship pageant, which led to my launching a national pageant magazine within months. It seemed only natural that I should write articles about that industry and its winners.

But it never occurred to me that I could write fiction until I read an article in USA Today about the donor organ business. It unnerved me. The result was a novel I wrote in the thriller genre. Its plot had the hero’s runaway daughter picked up by a televangelist’s outreach network and sent to a so-called rehab center that fronted for a donor organ cartel. It was a novel whose time had come. Yes, ripped from the news headlines and easily embellished for drama.

I sent query letters to 45 publishing houses but quickly learned how difficult it was to accept rejection. So, to develop my craft and become a “real” writer, I joined a local literary club in Fairhope, Alabama. It helped me to be more optimistic, too.

Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?

I’m a voracious reader because I’m curious about everything from genetics to sociology. I’ve long admired James Lee Burke’s prose and gritty characters. I also enjoy the talents of Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, and T.K. Thorne.

Talk to me about your writing process. What is your preferred writing environment? How long does it take you to complete a book?

For me it took years. After all, I had a day job. Running a marketing company with 45 employees consumed my time, so writing novels was a hobby. But ideas consumed me. While on the road I wrote longhand, spending time in restaurants, coffee shops, and hotel rooms. I’m now retired so I revise my debut novel. I also write short stories, at least enough to keep my critique group busy.

At what stage of writing do you find outside feedback helpful? How do you sift through differing advice?

Anytime, actually. The best feedback comes from a friend who’s also my landlady. She writes children’s books, and I’m amazed by her insight into my various character’s motivations. I’ve come to rely on many male and female readers. A different POV is always welcome, including that of an award-winning author. She’s candid and the world’s best at spotting redundancies.

I’ve learned that critique clubs are not all created equal. Many people have a built-in bias for social conservatism, so when my novel presented a televangelist in a bad light, one critique member assumed I was attacking her Christian values. “Hey, back off,” I wanted to say. “It’s fiction.” I left the group before she reached the part about polygamy.

When do you think about the audience your book appeals to?

Well, that’s a bit tricky. When will readers agree that matching people who have compatible genes will produce better babies? It’s fiction, true, but it’s based on real science—its use and misuse, eugenics versus dysgenics.

Pedigree Promise began as a thriller but it’s much more than that. Its hero, a standup comedian, has the “youth gene,” but he’s conflicted about using his genetic asset for the eugenics cause (it’s supposed to prevent heritable diseases). Or, because he needs the money, will he allow a cabal of billionaires to patent it for their materialistic (and nefarious) purposes?

A stigma still surrounds eugenics because some people can’t separate it from the science of 1930s politics. Hitler, they insist, invented it. No, he perverted and coerced it. Meanwhile, his VW gets a free ride. Readers must decide if genetic matching is “playing God” or if pedigree is a cause worth mating for.

So the plot evolved into a hybrid story, meaning I’m using elements of mystery, psychological intrigue, humor, and social commentary to make readers think about humanity’s future. By the way, I’m optimistic about that, too.

 

You can find out more about Nolan White on his Facebook page.

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.

161 Ways to Describe Weather

I keep a collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books I read. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s 161 Ways to Describe Weather.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).

Evening

  1. Evening shadows deepened into blue and purple.
  2. The shadows retreated.
  3. Sun was sinking toward the horizon, the pitiless white ball now an angry orange.
  4. Fading afternoon in early June
  5. Evening sky had turned to molten brass.
  6. Sun still cast a faint yellow light through Slowly gathering evening.
  7. Daylight had begun to drain away.
  8. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  9. cold light
  10. silver-white moon hung
  11. A half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads.
  12. watching the horizon drain of color
  13. The shadows slipped up the rocks as though the world were drowning in darkness.
  14. deepening shadows made it a city of ghosts
  15. barely visible in the fading light
  16. the high heavens
  17. Darkness settled around him.
  18. watching the horizon drain of color
  19. The shadows slipped up the rocks.
  20. Evening was crisp already, the last of sunset just a fading pale stripe in the western sky.
  21. darkening river
  22. the moon golden at dawn, turn purple just before sunset in the rainy season, sometimes has white and black stripes created by volcanic ash, calm and clear sometimes attended by only a single cloud
  23. humpback shapes of conical hills
  24. The last rays of sun skimmed the surface.
  25. late afternoon sun
  26. velvety darkness
  27. night shattered like a mirror
  28. the Southern Cross lying on its side, the green meadow bathed in the humid light of the sinking sun
  29. full dusk
  30. The corners have just about disappeared into the shadows.

Night

  1. black branches that traced the blue-black heavens overhead
  2. far away down the night sky
  3. full moon a pale blue-white disk
  4. night sky dull black
  5. Stars were remote pinpricks.
  6. one-quarter of a moonlit night
  7. cold light
  8. silver-white moon hung
  9. a half-moon rests in the fronds over our heads
  10. inky blackness
  11. Thick clouds blotted out the stars.
  12. A thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light.

Day

  1. Sun cast a luminescent glow.
  2. The day was out of sync with his mood.

Sunny

  1. beautiful, 82 degrees, mild breeze, cloudless sunshine, a day for looking at a ball game
  2. The air was cool but the sun was out.

Windy

  1. The wind blew itself out overnight.
  2. a web of clouds, backlit by the failing sun, mist billowed through the trees and over the fields and hung low in the air, masking the camp in a ghostly gray
  3. towering thunder clouds
  4. Clouds threatening, but no rain predicted the 45-mile per hour gusts of drizzly wind.
  5. dense fog
  6. brown cloud that passes for air
  7. a wedge of sunlight bursting past the narrow window
  8. The wind was icy and withering.
  9. Heads bowed against the gusting wind.

Dusty

  1. Grit grated in his teeth. Dust was everywhere, blowing on the wind, leaving its scent in his nostrils.
  2. as dust motes drifted

Horizon

  1. thirty miles over the horizon
  2. razor edge of the horizon

Fog/Mist

  1. cinder dust and gloom
  2. The haze floated over the crowd like smoke from a doused fire.
  3. Sun hanging in a pink haze of clouds and smog.
  4. Fog yellowed by agricultural burning.
  5. Fog began to billow across the road in a great grey mass like the effluent of a thousand smokestacks. The building was only a shadowy form, almost entirely lost to view.
  6. Headlamps of cars did little to pierce the gloom.
  7. The mist floated like smoke out of the cypress in the swamp.

Cloudy

  1. dark clouds drifting over the hills
  2. night was pitch
  3. slice of sky
  4. thick clouds blotted out the stars
  5. a thin layer of clouds masked the full moon, filling the room with blue light
  6. cool restful shady world with light filtering lazily through the treetops that meet high overhead and shut out the direct sunlight
  7. saw the anvil of cloud coming in. “A thunderstorm.”
  8. Cumulus clouds falling down to the…
  9. A light breeze whispered through the trees.
  10. cloud shadows
  11. first cumulus clouds darkening into thunderheads

Humid

  1. hold humidity like a sponge holds water
  2. thick heat of the growing morning
  3. fierce humidity
  4. windless heat
  5. It was surprisingly hot. He could feel the sweat roll down his sides and the dampness of the box up against his chest.
  6. Even with the breeze, the air remained thick and hot, and it stills tank of petroleum.

Sky

  1. sky as gray-white and sunless
  2. inky blackness
  3. against the fading layers of orange, yellow

Morning

  1. shoulders hunched against the early morning damp and cool
  2. fused warm light of dawn now creeping down the summit
  3. bathed in sunlight
  4. gold shadow not three inches from his leg

Cold

  1. his breath steaming in the air
  2. Snow pelted his face and he pulled up the collar of his overcoat to further shield him from the bitter weather.
  3. rubbed his arms

 Winter

  1. A harsh winter wind blew out of a midnight sky. It roared out of the frigid north and thrashed the brooking forest. The force of it bent trees, whipping their bare branches like angry lashes. Shrieking across the river.
  2. Cold was like that, seeping through her seven layers of clothing, attacking seams and zipper tracks and spots of thin insulation. The exposed skin on her face felt as if it had been touched with lit cigarettes.
  3. frigid Friday morning
  4. swirling snow
  5. winter’s naked branches created a black tracework
  6. The sun was climbing out of the deep well of winter, but it was still brutally cold.
  7. winter colors daubed the land in colors of brown and gray
  8. sunny, crisp and cool
  9. The crisp air and clear sky energized his thoughts.

Rainy weather

  1. grey wet morning
  2. rain-swept and unpleasantly chilly
  3. A flurry of rain stung my face.
  4. Cold rain was beating down on my windshield.
  5. The sky was leaden.
  6. The wind was icy and withering.
  7. Downpour started in the early evening and continued on through the night, a heavy pelting of water that thundered against rooftops and drowned out the sound of all else. By morning, city streets were shallow rivers rushing toward the ocean.
  8. Rain ran down the window, the streets gleamed.
  9. rain-swept
  10. damp paving stones
  11. By the time it reaches the ground, it has spent its energy.
  12. windshield wipers barely keeping up with the cold, hard rain
  13. The rain came steady and cold against the windshield and rattled on the roof of the car.
  14. turned her head away and looked out my window, where it had gotten dark and shiny with the lights glistening off the rain.
  15. The maple trees were black and slick in the rain, their bare branches shiny. The flower bed was a soggy matting of dead stems.
  16. The sky was low and gray.
  17. Air was swollen.
  18. the rain was steady and warm and vertical
  19. drizzly rain
  20. The sleaty rain drizzled down, not very hard and not very fast, but steady.
  21. Rain came down so hard it almost hurt, stinging the skin and blowing into the eyes and nose and mouth, but in the forest its fall is broken by the trees.
  22. saw a distant flash of lightning, counted the seconds, and then said, “six miles, more or less.”

People in hot weather:

  1. Heat wave hit, temperatures went soaring.
  2. The heat hit them like a hand in the face.
  3. strode into the dusk, into the stifling heat
  4. The heat smacked the grin off his face.
  5. Burst back into the blistering hot sun. Sweat immediately beaded across her brow. She could feel her T-shirt glue itself stickily to her skin.
  6. I could feel the sweat form along my backbone and trickle down.
  7. She slogged forward, feeling blotches of dark gray sweat bloom across the front of her T-shirt, while more trailed down the small of her back.
  8. slogging across pavement as hot as ash in August.
  9. white dress shirt, sharply pressed this morning, was now plastered against his chest
  10. already short of breath, his lungs laboring as they headed down the path
  11. still wrung out from working in the heat
  12. Take your shirt off. Pop your underwear in the freezer. Dump a tray of ice cubes on your bed. Throw back some chilled vodka shots before you go to sleep.
  13. The semi-drought slowly draining the life out of the grass and trees.
  14. Only 7 in the morning, and already stocky hot. *** had a sheen across his forehead.
  15. Sweat tricked from his forehead which he wiped with the back of his knotted, callused hand.
  16. hundred degree heat, burning sun and parching salt
  17. ninety-five outside, probably a hundred in the car. Not great weather for polyester suits
  18. a fresh drop of sweat teared up on her brow and made a slow, wet path down the plane of her cheek
  19. walking through a hair dryer
  20. The heat slammed her like a blow.
  21. *** cranked the air-conditioning. She stripped off her sweat-soaked clothes, climbed into the shower and scrubbed.
  22. answered the phone while used the other hand to wipe the sweat from the back of her neck. God this heat was unbearable. The humidity level had picked up on Sunday and hadn’t done a thing to improve since.
  23. *** thin green sundress was already plastered to her body while she could feel fresh dewdrops of moisture trickle stickily down between her breast.
  24. Cradled the phone closer to her damp ear
  25. Her face shiny with sweat.

Summer

  1. Summer sun remained a brilliant, blinding white. No shade existed for miles and the heat rising up from the baked earth was brutal.
  2. The summer heat came off the tarmac in waves.

Hot Weather

  1. While the mercury climbed to a hundred degrees. Efforts started strong, then petered out. People got hot, got tired, got busy with other things—inside things.
  2. Seemed to be bracing himself for leaving the cool comfort of air-conditioning behind and bursting once more into the heat
  3. The heat settled in on them, rolling in like a heavy blanket and pressing them deep into their chairs while their clothing glued to their skin.
  4. Even my teeth are sweating
  5. The sun beat down relentlessly; even with the AC cranked up, she could feel the heat.
  6. She could already feel sweat trickle down her back.
  7. The sun burned white-hot overhead.
  8. glass exploding from the heat of the sun
  9. vanish in the dry season’s brown leaves

Click for the complete list of 69 writer’s themed descriptions.

–published first on Today’s Author

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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

10 Tips on How to Know Your Story is Done

writing tipsEvery month, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (known by we-members as #IWSG) brings the most insecure among us together to discuss (in pithy concise posts) what bothers us, what helps/hurts our writing, and what we would suggest to others who would like to write. Last year, one of the optional questions was When do you know you’re done? I had no idea but was inspired by efriend Erika Beebe’s great answer to dig around on Twitter for more of what people said. I found ten tips that really made sense to me. See if you agree:

  • Does the thought of one more edit make you want to throw up?
  • Are your fixes now changing earlier edits rather than making new ones? Notwithstanding Oscar Wilde’s confession (often attributed to Mark Twain):

I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.

  • Did you finish all the lists you created for editing, the ones that expect you to search out was, saw, look, n’t, -ly, and there they’re their ilk?
  • Does your gut say you’re done, as in this anonymous quote:

“Her heart finally told her to stop wasting her time.”

  • Anne Lamott, says that trying to get a book ready is like:

“…putting an octopus to bed.”

Is your octopus asleep?

  • Did you cram in the correct word count–not too many for your genre?
  • Did you fix that spot where you wrote yourself into a corner and couldn’t escape, like a defective Roomba?
  • Have I gotten rid of the first paragraph? (that bit where she wakes up, or he thoughtfully pets his dog. You finally figured out you didn’t really need that bit, didn’t you?)
  • Did you have beta readers–or a critique group–review it? I know–uncomfortable, but agents like to know that’s done.
  • Did you write ‘the end’?
  • Did I just press send too soon?

Me, I’m working through these tips as I edit Book 2 of my Crossroads trilogy, The Quest for Home. My goal is Fall 2019. We’ll see…

If you’re curious about IWSG, check out my IWSG posts in response to their questions.

–published first on Today’s Author

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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, an Amazon Vine Voice,  and a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUB. 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

21 Tips on Working Remotely

work remotelyI first considered this topic at a presentation I attended through WordCamp Orange County. I had several trips coming up and decided to see how to address writing issues while away from my hub. Usually, that’s when I realize I can’t do/find something and say, “If only…” And then I read Diane Tibert’s post about Writers Who Choose to Live Fulltime in RVs. It has only grown since I first pondered it. We Work Remotely is a website devoted to the concept and why it is exactly the right choice for lots of people.

It got me thinking. Truth is, life often interferes with work. Vacations, conferences, PD–all these take us away from our primary functions and the environment where we are most comfortable delivering our best work. I thought about this when I read an article by a technical subject teacher (math, I think)  pulled away from his class for a conference. Often in science/math/IT/foreign languages, subs aren’t as capable (not their fault; I’d capitulate if you stuck me in a Latin language class). He set up a video with links for classwork and a realtime feed where he could be available and check in on the class. As a result, students–and the sub–barely missed him. Another example of teaching remotely dealt with schools this past winter struggling with the unusually high number of snow days. So many, in fact, that they were either going to have to extend the school year or lose funding. Their solution: Have teachers deliver content from their homes to student homes via a set-up like Google Hangouts (but one that takes more than 10-15 participants at a time).

All it took to get these systems in place was a problem that required a solution and flexible risk-taking stakeholders who came up with answers.

As a writer, I wondered: Why can’t I work from the road? In fact, I watched a fascinating presentation from Wandering Jon where he shared how he does exactly that. John designs websites and solves IT problems from wherever he happens to be that day–a beach in Thailand, the mountains in Tibet or his own backyard. Where he is no longer impacts the way he delivers on workplace promises.

Here’s what I came up with that I either currently use or can easily arrange:

  1. Have necessary apps on iPads and smartphones. This includes email, faxing, note-taking, scanning, social media, and all sharing.
  2. Have at least one cloud-based email account (forward your other accounts through this one).
  3. Set your email message to appropriately warn emailers that you may be out of touch occasionally.
  4. Have a cloud-based note-taking program–Evernote, Notability, or Google Keep for example.
  5. If you’re traveling to distant locations, know where to find co-working environments in case of emergencies (these are places that rent fully-equipped office space by the day/week).
  6. Use eboarding passes–don’t print. Who can find a printer at the beach? Send the boarding pass to your phone.
  7. Have a cloud-based fax program like RingCentral.
  8. Wean yourself from hard copies. It’s easier to do than it sounds.
  9. Use a hot spot connected to your phone. Try really hard not to use public WiFi like Starbucks–very unsafe.
  10. A WiFi repeater is nice in case you’re REALLY remote.
  11. Be brave about solving problems–don’t let setbacks and roadblocks stop you, be accountable to yourself or you won’t get stuff done.
  12. Download books to your iPad/reader/smartphone (not in cloud).
  13. Have a virtual map program like Google Maps.
  14. Have a Find-my-phone program.
  15. Have a Find-my-friends program–so friends can locate you via GPS at any given moment.
  16. Have Skype or Google Hangouts to stay in better touch with your nuclear family.
  17. If possible, have a satellite phone.
  18. Have backup batteries for your phone and iPad. Personal hotspots and Google Maps burn through power. What should last nine hours turns out to be two.
  19. Have redundancy where something is important. My external battery charger died and my iPad ran out of juice on a flight home. I had to read (gasp) a paperback rather than a digital book. Yeah, the paperback was my redundancy.
  20. Check in regularly with friends via social media; they want to know you’re OK.
  21. Be aware of time zones.

If you’re considering remote work, here are some job boards that offer writing jobs done away from an office:

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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, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Interview with Ann Griffin

finished image croppedIn my three million part series on writing, I’ve interviewed Ann Griffin, a writer of historical fiction. Her recent novel is a fictional version of real life events, inspired by her mother. The more author interviews I do, the more comforted I am by the idea that we’re all different. None of our paths are exactly the same and we have varied ways of existing because there is no one way to be a writer.

When did you decide you wanted to be published?

I wanted to be published very early while I was writing my novel, although I had at that time no idea what the process was. Once the book was finished, edited professionally by a developmental editor, I began querying. I signed up for Query Tracker, which provides information and a relatively easy way to query agents and keep track of who, when, and where. I participated in workshops on writing query letters and synopses and continued to modify them as I sent my queries and received feedback.

But despite a positive response (twelve requests for full manuscipts out of about 50 queries) it dawned on me how slow the process is. Not only that, I’m not a young person. Waiting two years after getting a contract to have a book for sale was just too long for me, so I refocused on self-publishing.

That turned out to be a steep learning curve, but thanks to a number of helpful websites (janefriedman.com, joelfriedlander.com) I boosted my knowledge and my confidence, and dove in. I hired a cover designer. I hired a copyeditor. Within four months of making the decision, my book was launched. Looking back, I should have taken more time before launching to send out ARCs and get some reviews, but in spite of that, my sales have gone quite well.

Bowker_high_res_image_cover

My most recent (my only) book is Another Ocean to Cross, which is WWII historical fiction. It took about seven years to write, partly because I had no idea how to write a novel when I started. It all began when my last living uncle died in 2002. In his safety deposit box was a letter from a daughter no-one in the family knew existed. My curiosity demanded I look into this “family skeleton in the closet,” so eventually I met this cousin, who told me the story of her parents’ romance, marriage, and subsequent divorce. It was such a compelling, outrageous story, that I decided it needed to be written. Seeing no other suitable candidates, I volunteered myself for the job.

My first draft was fairly close to the true story, but my developmental editor (Kathryn Craft) helped me realize that sometimes, truth is too strange for readers of fiction, so I had to modify the story considerably to meet the demands of fiction. For example, in real life, the main character did not change much and did not seem to learn from her experience. In my book, she does learn and grow.

The story is of a gutsy young German Jewish girl, who tackles all kinds of dangers and hardships to save her parents, her child, and her battle-injured husband. The book follows Renata from Germany through Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, to Egypt. From there, later, she must go to London, and finally, she heads to Canada where, eventually, she reunites with her husband. Hence the title, “Another Ocean to Cross.”

 

What inspires you?

I am inspired by stories of people in my family history, or someone else’s, who must deal with difficulty, danger, isolation, fear, in a world that is different from what we know in the twenty-first century. Strong women particularly inspire me.

 

What do you do if you get stuck?

I’ll switch to writing prompts sometimes. Or take up a totally different project. Sometimes I’m stuck because I need to do more research, and in that case, off I go to the library or wherever I need to get the information.

 

What is the biggest challenge of being published?

The marketing. It consumes my life and makes it hard to continue working on my next book. I don’t have money to spend on a publicist or other pricey methods of marketing, so I have focused on speaking to book clubs, libraries, and other groups where I have a connection. I have participated in two book festivals and am registered for a third in April. Next I’ll be contacting service clubs which often want guest speakers and permit the speaker to sell their products. I have entered several book contests but am still awaiting results. I hope to be named a finalist and would be thrilled to win, because that phrase, “award-winning author,” and a pretty gold sticker to put on the book does help sales.

 

What’s the best part?

As a published author, I encounter immediate respect from other writers and even more so from the general public as I meet them. The sense of achievement, a book in my hand that I created, is as good as the thrill of new motherhood.

 

What is your next project?

I am working on two new books, and am still not sure which one I will complete first. One is a sequel to Another Ocean to Cross that begins in 1960. The other begins in 1880, and follows a boy, Walter, and his sister, Emily, who are taken from their parents and sent to Canada to be labourers, but in separate cities. Their determination to find each other forms the main part of the plot.

You can find out more about Ann on her website.