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

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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.

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

Popular collections:

15 Ways to Describe Birds

How to Characterize Love in Your Writing

45 Transitions That Help Your Story Flow


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

More on writing

12 Survival Tips for Writers

An Affordable Writing Program

Series or Not a Series–How do You know?


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:

10 Companies with Remote Work

Working Nomads

Remote Writing Jobs


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

Top 12 Favorite iPad Shortcuts

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.

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 trying to get along with it, we’ve come to a companionable arrangement with each other that mixes mouse right clicks and keyboard shortcuts. So, when I got an iPad, the first thing I 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?


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 Born in a Treacherous Time, first in 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, Survival of the Fittest, March 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

 

Google Drawings: Great Free Tool for Writers

writerGoogle Drawings is a free Google Drive-based drawing tool that allows users to create drawings, devise marketing pieces for their writing, brainstorm stories with concept maps, and more.

To use Google Drawings, here’s what you do:

  • Open your Google Drive account; go to New and select Google Drawings (it’s probably located under ‘More’).
  • Insert shapes, lines, an image, or text with the editing tools.
  • When finished, publish the drawing as a stand-alone or add it to a Google Doc, slideshow, or spreadsheet. As with all Google tools, it can be shared with others in a wide variety of methods.

There are a lot of drawing programs available — SumoPaint, KidPix, and TuxPaint to name a few. All are wonderful in their own right and many more powerful than Google Drawings. So why use Drawings? Here are eight reasons:

  • It’s collaborative which is nice if you’re working with a team.
  • Projects are easily shared with others.
  • It syncs between locations so you can start a drawing on your laptop and finish it on your tablet. 
  • It is minimalist which means it is easy to learn, intuitive to use, and with only exactly what you need for most drawings.
  • It’s easy to find. Rather than trying to remember where you created your drawing, Drawings are all saved to your Google Drive. 
  • Edits are easy. Just open the project from Drive and edit.
  • The project can be shared as a link or embedded into many different locations with an embed code found under File>Publish to the web
  • A project can be downloaded as a .jpg, a .png, a vector graphic, or a PDF

Here are eight projects perfect for writers:

Brainstorming, mindmap to plan your story

Create the bubbles and arrows popular to mindmaps with Google Drawings rather than a dedicated mindmap tool like Bubbl.us. Since Drawings allows for collaborating and sharing, it’s easy to brainstorm a story if you’re co-authoring and come up with a collaborative solution everyone likes.

Here’s an example I created:

google-draw-mindmap-brainstorm-k

Comic strip another way to share your story

Create a comic strip trailer for your novel quickly and visually. Here’s an example:

Infographic about your story

Introduce your story with an infographic created in Drawings. Here’s a good video on how to create the shapes required for infographics. Once that’s done, add text boxes to describe your story.

Timeline (events in your plot)

I love timelines but most of the online tools are less than satisfactory (I won’t mention names). Google Drawings has become one of my favorites because of its minimalistic approach–add text boxes to identify events in the story and then add pictures. The example below uses a thick line, text boxes for events, and one picture to sum up the story:

Clickable map of your story

Create a map of the locations in your story. Add a picture that links to a rundown of what happens there in your story. Use this to inspire interest in potential readers.

Here’s an example of a story, based in the USA (though you won’t be able to click the red stars because I’ve uploaded a screenshot only):

plot map in google draw

***

In a literary world where getting noticed is critical, Google Drawings could be exactly the right tool.

More on Apps for Writers:

Digital Storytelling Tools

How to Screenshot

How to Use Canva in Your Writing


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 Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in 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, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019, first in the Crossroads Trilogy. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Photos For Class–for writers and teacher-authors

photos for classA question I get a lot from readers is where to go for free, teacher-safe images. Photo sites are either too sparse or poorly vetted. And–while we’re on the subject of online images–it needs to be easier to add citations because otherwise, students will just skip that step.

Photos for Class(but not just for classes), brought to you by the folks at Storyboard That (a premier digital storytelling site that quickly and easily enables users to mix avatars, backgrounds, and talk bubbles to tell a story–like your latest book in comic form) does all of these. It uses proprietary filters to search millions of Creative Commons-licensed photos from the Library of Congress, the British Royal Archives, and Flikr’s safe-search setting to curate a classroom-safe collection of topical photos in seconds.  There is no log-in, no registration, no fee or premium plan, and a zero learning curve. All you need to know is how to use a search bar and a download button.

Here’s how it works: Go to the Photos for Class website (no registration or log-in required), search your topic:

free online photos

…and then download the selected photo. Each downloaded photo includes an attribution and license detail.

online photos

There is no charge, no delay, and lots of choices.

In addition to photos, the site offers suggestions on citing and filtering photos, and a list of the top 250 searches.

Pros

Photos for Class is intuitive, easy-to-navigate, with child-safe content for even the youngest searchers. It makes it easy to develop good habits for properly citing online content.

If users find an objectionable image, they can report it to the site with the assurance that–if inappropriate–it will be removed from the site.

Cons

Besides downloading, photos can be saved with a right-click. This is a con only because they don’t include attribution. You have to add that yourself if needed–like with Flikr photos.

Insider Tips

Storyboard That’s premium service includes the ability to add photos from Photos for Class to Storyboard That projects. This is a great way to share your upcoming novel with authentic pictures in a way that people like to read. It’s a pleasant change from video trailers..

Writing applications

This is a great source of high-quality photos for your book marketing, your blog, or any other place you need pictures for your writing. It’s not as large as Pixabay but focuses on G-rated and kid-friendly. The thumbnails are big and bright. The search bar is prominent, and the results are fast.

More about online images:

Quick Search for Plagiarized Images

5 Image Apps

What Online Images are Free?


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 Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in 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, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning