Friday, May 26, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 168

Not much happened this week. My wife's surgery went well, as did my crit group meeting. The only thing that could make this week any better would be if my son actually did his homework without us having to remind him every thirty minutes. Sigh. 

Today is the start of Memorial Day weekend here in the States, which marks the start of flower planting season here in Michigan. I have a dozen flats of annuals sitting in the backyard, all ready for a binge of planting. We'll see if my back is too sore to write later on in the day. 

I enjoyed reading your guesses as to what happened to my wife's wrist last week, but I wonder why many of them  included me in the scenarios. I wasn't even there at the time. No, really, I swear. 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 


P.S.  If you missed Wednesday's post about Jacqui Murray's new book, Twenty-Four Days, be sure to check it out

How to Take Advantage of Your 4 Most Important Characters

Author Platform Building: How to Create a Valuable Email List For Your Book

How To Copyright A Book: A Comprehensive Guide

Why Identifying Your Reading Audience Age Is Crucial

Producing Your Books in Audio Part Two: Auditions

Self-Publishing Resources: For Fun and Profit

5 Qs Authors Don’t Ask but Should When an Agent Offers Rep

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Twenty Four Days" by Jacqui Murray

Today I'm happy to be part of the book tour for Twenty-Four Days, the new book by Jacqui Murray. If you're into high-tech thrillers, you'll want to check it out.

I asked Jacqui if the tech in this book was really possible and this was her response:

Absolutely. It takes real laws of physics—science in general—and extrapolates intelligently on those to what could be if there was time and money. It follows the model of what is commonly referred to as Star Trek Science. But in the case of Twenty-four Days science, you don’t have to wait centuries. It’ll probably be around in a matter of decades.

So check out the book info and the included excerpt below.

Good luck, Jacqui! 

Twenty-four Days:

A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don't know what it is, where it is, or who's involved.

Excerpt from the book:

Monday, August 7th
HMNB Devonport England
Until last month, Eyad Obeid considered himself a devout Muslim. He prayed five times a day, proclaimed God’s glory in every conversation, and performed the required ablutions when confronted with uncleanliness. When his brother was executed by Israeli gunman five years ago, Obeid swore retribution. No nobler purpose could he imagine for his worthless life than dying for Allah.
But instead of a suicide vest and the promise of seventy-two virgins, the village imam enrolled him in college to learn nuclear physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and math so complex its sole application was theoretical. Much to Obeid’s surprise, he thrived on the cerebral smorgasbord. In fact, with little effort, he attained all the skills required by the Imam.
By the time he earned his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, he had learned two lessons. First, he was much smarter than most people around him, and second, the western world was not what he had been told.
Now, just weeks after graduation, Eyad Obeid approached the dingy Devonport pub on the frigid southern shore of England and wondered how to explain to the man responsible for giving Eyad Obeid this amazing future that he would fulfill his obligation, but then, wanted out.
He squared his shoulders and entered the pub.
His stomach lurched. Rather than his mentor Salah Mahmud al-Zahrawi, he found the Kenyan and his three henchmen. He had first met these thugs in San Diego California where he learned to run a nuclear submarine under the friendly tutelage of British submariners. When Obeid finished his studies, the Kenyan slaughtered the Brits. No warning. No discussion, just slash, slice and everyone died.
As did Obeid’s belief in the purity of Allah.
The nuclear physicist jammed his hands into his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and approached the table. The Kenyan had never introduced himself and Eyad Obeid lacked the courage to ask.
“I was expecting Salah al-Zahrawi,” Obeid offered as he slipped into the booth.
The Kenyan stared past Obeid, eyes as desolate as the Iranian desert, thick sloping shoulders still, ebony skin glistening under the fluorescent lights. Danger radiated from him like the hum of a power plant. He had three new fight scars since their last encounter, like angry welts but otherwise, he looked rested, clearly losing no sleep over the slaughter of innocents.
“You have one more job before you are released.” In a quiet, toneless voice, the man without a soul explained the new plan, finishing with, “If you fail, you die.”
Obeid was stunned. His gut said Run! He risked his future—his life—staying a moment longer with this crazed zealot, but Obeid did little more than croak a strangled, “If I succeed, I will also die!” His University friends called it a Sophie’s Choice.
The Kenyan shrugged. “But less painfully.”
Obeid twitched as heat washed his face. As he sought an appropriate response, the waitress arrived with tea. She poured a cup for each of them, chattering to no one in particular about how she had forgotten her blarmy slicker because her boyfriend kept her up the whole bloody night, di’n he, and she was frightfully knackered. No one responded.
“Shall I tell you the specials on offer?”
The Kenyan slowly ratcheted his head toward her. “Go.”
The waitress backed away, almost knocking over another server and his steaming tray of eggs, bacon, black pudding, and baked beans.  “Well, aren’t we in a bloody mood,” and she left.
The Kenyan did not seem to notice, his flat dead eyes back on Obeid. The physicist squirmed. He was but one man. His only hope was to quietly warn the authorities.  He folded his hands into his lap to hide their shaking.
Insha Allah, I will help. What do you require?”
“Do you remember the training you received from the Parishers?”
The British submariners you butchered? Obeid nodded.
“You must ensure the sailors perform their duties after we hijack the sub.”
With no further explanation, the Kenyan tossed a fistful of notes onto the table and left. As Obeid hurried after him, he surreptitiously thumbed a message into his phone and pushed send.
There was no signal.
The Kenyan parked in the crew lot outside Her Majesty’s Devonport Plymouth Naval Base. Obeid changed into a uniform and emerged from the car carrying a loaded gun in a prayer rug. Maa shaa Allah.
The storm broke and quickly turned the parking lot slick and shiny. Obeid shivered despite the heavy pea coat with the warm fur-lined collar. How did the British stand the weather? When this ended, he would never again leave the sparkling sun and cloudless skies of his beloved Iran.
“Eyad!” It was Tariq Khosrov, with two other friends from Obeid’s graduate program, all with PhDs in nuclear physics. Tariq was one of the smartest boys Obeid had ever met and the most na├»ve. “Are we going to steal a nuclear submarine?”
Obeid hissed, “Quiet!” and the Kenyan nudged him toward the base’s thick metal gates. They had been designed to stop an AK-47 or a firebomb, even an RPG, but not the weapon Salah al-Zahrawi would use. Faithful Muslims who worked for naval personnel had replaced pictures of the dead San Diego Parishers with Obeid and the rest of the hijackers. By the time the Royal Navy realized something was wrong, HMS Triumph would be gone and missing.
The man in front of Obeid passed his ID to the bored security. He checked the man’s face, his computer screen, and waved him through.
It was Obeid’s turn.  “ID, please.”
Obeid’s chest tightened as the stern-looking sentry, blonde hair trimmed close to his scalp, collar turned up against the wind, fingers like thick sausages on powerful hands, turned a flint-eyed glare to Obeid. The nuclear physicist froze and the guard’s boredom became suspicion. He read the name stitched on the right breast of Obeid’s uniform. “Haim is it?”
He looked Obeid up and down, as though to determine if the name matched the slight figure in front of him with wire-rimmed glasses and the thatch of black hair dripping rain down his forehead. True, he couldn’t tell Obeid’s stomach lacked the six-pack of muscles the real Haim had been so proud of, but he could see Obeid’s slender hands and they were those of a scientist, not a sailor. Surely, the guard would say something.
Obeid fumbled, almost dropping the ID before shoving it forward.
“Anything to declare?” The guard’s gaze flicked to the prayer rug.
Sweat broke out under Obeid’s arms. Should he tell the guard there was an AK-47 in his prayer rug or would he shoot before listening to Obeid’s explanation? No, better to deal with the problem onboard. Besides, the Kenyans claimed they were simply leveraging demands against Britain backed by the threat posed by the sub’s weapons. They would never use them.
He bit his lip hard, tasting blood, and forced anger into his voice. “You suspect me because I am Muslim? Do you want to examine my prayer rug?” His voice dripped with righteous indignation as he had practiced and he extended the tightly-bound bundle, taking care to keep the ends turned away from the soldier. “Maybe I am carrying an A… K.” He purposely stumbled over the name.
The sentry flushed and stepped back as though burned.
“Now I didn’t mean that mate, did I? O’ course you’re fine,” and waved Obeid through.
Across the yard, limned against the grey sky, towered the domed shape of the HMS Triumph, its deck slick with rain, sail glistening in the early morning light. The warheads it carried could reach the vast majority of the planet but the bustling sailors, some in oil-stained uniforms, others nattily dressed in white with jaunty officer caps, greeted each other, oblivious to the danger approaching them in the uniform of shipmates.
What had he done?
“Keep going,” the scar-faced Kenyan hissed between clenched teeth.
Obeid balled his fists to stop their shaking and forced his steps to be slow and measured as if in no rush to start what would be a three-month deployment.
When the group reached the Triumph, they were greeted by a cherub-faced seaman. “You the Parisher blokes?” He stuck his hand out. “Name’s McEwen. We’re the Second crew. First came down with food poisoning.” He chuckled, eyes crinkling with merriment, brows like gray steel wool. “Brill, you think? Who wants to play hide and seek with a Diesel?”
McEwen poked the Kenyan in jovial familiarity while Obeid combed through his training for what a ‘diesel’ might be.
“Enough yakking. Get sorted, blokes. We leave in an hour.”

What customers are saying about this series:
J Murray’s long anticipated thriller, To Hunt a Sub, is a satisfying read from a fresh voice in the genre, and well worth the wait. The time devoted to research paid off, providing a much-appreciated authenticity to the sciency aspects of the plot. The author also departs from the formulaic pacing and heroics of contemporary commercialized thrillers. Instead, the moderately paced narrative is a seduction, rather than a sledgehammer. The author takes time rendering relatable characters with imaginatively cool names like Zeke Rowe, and Kalian Delamagente. The scenes are vividly depicted, and the plot not only contains exquisitely treacherous twists and turns, but incorporates the fascinating study of early hominids, and one ancestral female in particular who becomes an essential character. The narrative might have benefited from language with a crisper, sharper edge, but that is purely my personal taste and preference and takes nothing away from the overall satisfaction of this novel.

One thing I enjoyed about this read is the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military aspects of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. I was fascinated by her explanation of Otto's capabilities, the security efforts Kali employs to protect her data, and how she used Otto's data to help Rowe.

The research and technical details she included in this book had me in complete awe. A cybervirus is crippling submarines--and as subs sunk to the bottom of the ocean, I found myself having a hard time breathing. It's up to Zeke and Kali to save the entire country using their brains. If you love thrillers, this is definitely one you can't miss!

Book information:
Title and author: Twenty-four Days by J. Murray
Genre: Thriller, military thriller
Available at: Kindle USKindle UKKindle Canada

Author bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.
Quote from author:
What sets this series apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the Naval battle that relies on not just fire power but problem solving to outwit the enemy.
Social Media contacts:

Friday, May 19, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 167

This Week's Writing Links

I'm posting this week's writing links from the local hospital waiting room. My wife is in the middle of some minor surgery to fix a slight fracture in her left hand. I'd tell you how she hurt the hand, but she's already embarrassed enough about the circumstances, so for the sake of the marriage it's best I say nothing. 

What I will tell you is that no alcohol was involved that no illegal activity was taking place at the time of the accident. :) 

If you'd care to hazard a wild guess as to what happened, please add it to the comment section. I'm sure she'll be amused. 

I know I will.  

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 


P.S.  She's in good spirits and expects to be back to work tomorrow.

How to Spot Toxic Feedback: 7 Signs That the Writing Advice You’re Getting May Do More Harm Than Good

5 Reasons to Consider Using an Omniscient Narrator

Does Description Work For Your Reader, or Against Them?

Show Your Baddie R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Make Them Memorable

Memorable Author Screw-Ups

When Readers Don’t Believe Our Writing

The Origin Scene: Where Your Story REALLY Starts

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

A Step by Step Guide for Submitting to a Writing Contest

I'm privileged to have Renee Cheung on my blog today to give us pointers on submitting to a writing contest. As one of the authors whose story was chosen to be included in the Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Hero Lost, I suspect she might just know a thing or two about the subject.

Take it away, Renee!

A Step by Step Guide for Submitting to a Writing Contest
by Renee Cheung

(Also known as dealing with demons and whispers.)

Today I’d like to share with you all my personal process that I went through to submit to the IWSG writing contest that resulted in the Lost Hero Anthology. It may not be your shtick but maybe you’ll find a helpful tip or two here. That or I will be coming off as certifiable insane. Well, at least you don’t know exactly where I live.

(1)  Think of a story
Without this first step, there wouldn’t be much to submit right? So without further ado, let's begin. Start by letting the theme of the contest expand in your mind. Look at your surroundings, look inwards, look outwards. Think about it while you are chewing. Think about it while you are sitting on the can (or in my case, while showering). But whatever you do, don’t let it stop percolating in your mind. If you ignore the whispers, they will go away eventually and as an author, you don’t really want that, right? (Unless you’re truly insane, in which case, carry on.)

(2)  Let worry convince you it’s not good enough then do it anyways
Ah, the demons of doubt. The insidious, bad kinds of whispers that always beats down the story before it even has a chance to form. Sometimes there’s just no helping the nagging that goes on and on. So what to do but accept that the story is not good enough but stick with it anyways. Just to spite those demons. Because it’s fun to be spiteful.

(3)  Write like all of hell is on your heels
Whoever said revenge is best served cold obviously knows nothing about the pleasures of instant gratification. So in the spirit of being spiteful, write, write and write. Race headlong and let the words pour out, no matter how nonsensical. Afterall, if you are hearing whispers, you’re crazy anyways so you are just living true to your nature. Also if you are too busy listening to the whispers, you are too busy to give the demons much attention. See, another way to be spiteful!

(4)  Rip it apart
Okay, so you’re done and inevitably those demons have caught up to you. This is the hard part but maybe also the most fun. Listen to those demons, let them rip your writing apart. But then what do you do? You fix your story bit by bit. It’s kind of like pottery. In the previous step, you have shaped the blob of clay into some semblance of a thing and now it is time to actually give it definition and details, so let those demons, unwitting as they are, help. Actually it’s a lot of like that creepy stalker pottery scene from Ghost.

(5)  Don’t expect much (but let your loved ones and friends convince you that you are awesome)
Your expectation is probably the an all-time low at this point so good job, you’ve completed the first half of this step with no effort! As for part 2, you’re planning to share the story anyways so you might as well share early and get a cheerleading squad behind you. At least your loved ones have to have some compliment for your story, even if it is a critique sandwich.  This way, you can try and gather some shred of your confidence back from the brutal time you had in the last stel. Also wine and ice cream. Sometimes ice cream in the wine.

(6)  Send it to your writing buddies and brace for the worst
Okay, so now is the time for real feedback. Your demons have gorged themselves so hardcore on your doubts that they are pretty useless to you at this point. Time to turn to better help and brace for impact. All good things that are good for you hurt or taste bad in some way, like cough medicine, right? But hey, there are bound to be more critique sandwiches. Mmmm... sandwiches.

(7)  Close your eyes and hit the send button
Okay, so you have revised and revised and at some point you are going to have to stop. The demons are cackling by now because they think you have given in and are stuck in revision land. So what better way to go “BAM! IN YOUR FACE!” then hitting the send button? I know it has been a few steps but we are trying to go for spiteful here, remember? In the words of the great Nike advertising campaign slogan: Just Do It.

(8)  Move on (or try at least)
That’s it! The demons are probably on the defense now, telling you that you will never win but hey, that’s just them trying unsuccessfully to be spiteful. Afterall, it's done and out of your hands. Go have some pie, or some wine, or more ice cream, or all the above! You have appeased the whispers of inspiration so go celebrate. Also stop dwelling. Yes I am talking to you. Oh you will dwell but that’s why you go back to step 1. Now go, feed the inner crazy.

And that’s how Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight became what it is. As authors I think we are all a little neurotic at times with our craft. What are your quirks in your writing process? 

Renee uses her years of experience as a developer to write about the what-ifs of magic and technology. When she is not suspiciously peering at her computer in between her writing, she can be found roaming the streets with her family or gaming (whether it’s video games, board games or table-top RPGs) with her similar-minded friends. 

Memoirs of a Forgotten Knight

Long ago, before the Unseen migrated into servers and networks, a hedge-knight sought to save a village from a dragon. But being a hero always has its price.

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Story Research

Today is May's contribution to Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writers Support Group.

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?


Well, other than the fact that my submission to my critique group is due tomorrow and my chapter is nowhere near ready. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary, so I think I’ll answer this month’s optional question instead. 

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story? 

Hmmm… I’m still working on my first story so I haven’t had to do all that much research yet. My story does include some rather esoteric aspects of alchemy, but I’m a chemist so I already know most of that. I suppose my most memorable bit of research involved online banking transfers. Not because this topic is particularly weird or cool, but because of the way I had to obtain the information. 

The heroine in my story needed to access someone else’s bank account, but I didn’t know if what I had in mind would work in real life. So I picked up the phone and called both my bank and my credit card company and, after explaining that I was writing a novel, asked them pointed questions about the security issues involved when transferring money. 

I was admittedly nervous during the calls, afraid I might sound like someone planning to do something illegal. But both of the people I spoke with were very nice and didn’t seem at all reluctant to answer my questions. Turns out what I had in mind would work—at least sometimes—so I’m happy I made the calls. 

But the black sedan that’s been parked outside our house for the last few days is beginning to creep out my wife. 

I look forward to reading your answers to this question on your blogs.