Friday, June 29, 2018

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 188

This Week's Writing Links
Photo Courtesy of Visual Hunt

I’ve kept myself busy over the last week editing the first draft of the fanfic I mentioned in my last IWSG post. So far, the chapters have been in pretty good shape, mostly only needing a bit of tightening here and there. I guess this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise considering I’ve probably gone back over these early chapters about 10,000 times over the past ten years. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as I move deeper into the book.

However, it seems that every chapter contains one section that needs major work. These passages are only about a page or two in length, but they’re filled with paragraph after paragraph of incoherent words, multiple versions of sentences, logic problems, and notes to myself, all color coded to help me keep track of the mess. 

These sections have plagued me for years, some of them almost from the beginning. It’s not like I haven’t worked on them during previous edits, but I found them so difficult I eventually gave up and told myself that I’d come back to them "later."  Over and over and over again. 

Well, I've finally arrived at "later" and I can no longer put them off. I need to make the hard decisions and fix these pages. I’ll be taking a long bus ride this weekend and my plan is to fix these problems before the ride is over. Wish me luck! .

Enjoy the writing links! 


8 Common Pacing Problems

Wax On, Wax Off: 5 Areas To Polish Before Submitting A Manuscript

What's a piece of writing advice that you completely ignore?

How to Motivate the Writer Inside of You

How Structure Affects Pacing

What to Do When Your Critique Feedback Gets Ignored

Create Drama with Your Character’s Desire

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Born In A Treacherous Time, A New Book by Jacqui Murray.

Well, what do you know? Two Wednesday posts in a row.  Will wonders never cease? 

Of course, the reason for my sudden surge in output has more to do with the work ethic of other, more prolific writers.  Last week's post was about Chrys Fey's new book, Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publicationand this week I'm happy to announce Jacqui Murray's new book, Born In A Treacherous TimeHere's the book blurb:

Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist). 


Jacqui gave me a chance to ask her one question about her book, so here it is: "It's hard enough to get your books noticed these days as it is. Why did you write a book in such a tiny niche?" 

Jacqui's answer:

Born in a Treacherous Time is written in the sub-genre of historic fiction called prehistoric fiction, a time before recorded history. There aren’t a lot of readers in this genre but they are devoted! Because the only records are rocks, world building has proven difficult but Lucy (the heroine) really didn’t give me a choice. She nagged me to tell her story from my first page twenty years ago to my final draft.

Now maybe Lucy will leave me alone! 

Somehow I doubt it, Jacqui.  Mark my words.  Lucy will demand a sequel.

Anyway, if you guys find this concept intriguing, be sure to check out the sample chapter below.  Thanks again, Jacqui!

Now available in ebook form at: Amazon


Kirkus Reviews says:

“Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout.

A well-executed tale of early man.”

Click here for the entire review

About Jacqui
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. Wild seriesShe is also the author of over a hundred books on integrating technology into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice,  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.


Sample chapter:
Lucy Leaves Her Homeland
The scene replayed in Lucy’s mind, an endless loop haunting her days and nights. The clear sun-soaked field, the dying Mammoth, the hunters waiting hungrily for its last breath before scavenging the meat, tendons, internal organs, fat, and anything else consumable—food that would nourish the Group for a long time.
But something went horribly wrong. Krp blamed Lucy and soon, so too did Feq.
Why did Ghael stand up?  He had to know it would mean his death.
Lucy wanted to escape, go where no one knew what she’d done, but Feq would starve without her. He didn’t know how to hunt, couldn’t even tolerate the sight of blood. For him, she stayed, hunting, scavenging, and outwitting predators, exhausting herself in a hopeless effort to feed the remaining Group members. But one after another, they fell to Snarling-dog, Panther, Long-tooth Cat, Megantereon, and a litany of other predators. When the strangers arrived, Feq let them take her.
By this time, Lucy felt numb, as much from the death of her Group as the loss of Garv. Garv, her forever pairmate, was as much a part of her as the lush forests, Sun’s warmth, and Snarling-dog’s guidance. Now, with all the other deaths, she could leave his memory behind.

Forests gave way to bushlands. The prickly stalks scratched her skin right through the thick fur that layered her arms and legs. The glare of Sun, stark and white without the jungle to soften it, blinded her. One step forward became another and another, into a timeless void where nothing mattered but the swish of feet, the hot breeze on her face, and her own musty scent.
Neither male—not the one who called himself Raza nor the one called Baad—had spoken to her since leaving. They didn’t tell her their destination and she didn’t ask, not that she could decipher their intricate hand gestures and odd body movements. She studied them as they talked to each other, slowly piecing together what the twist of a hand and the twitch of a head meant. She would understand it all by the time they reached wherever they headed.
It was clear they expected her to follow. No one traveled this wild land alone but her reasons for joining them, submissively, had nothing to do with fear. Wherever the strangers took her would be better than where she’d been.

Lucy usually loved running through the mosaic of grass and forest that bled one into another. Today, instead of joy, she felt worry for her future and relief that her past was past. She effortlessly matched Raza’s tread, running in his steps at his pace. Baad did the same but not without a struggle. His sweat, an equal mix of old and stale from the long trip to find her and fresh from trying to keep up, blossomed into a ripe bouquet that wafted over her. She found comfort in knowing this strong, tough male traveled with her.
Vulture cawed overhead, eagerly anticipating a meal. From the size of his flock, the scavenge must be an adult Okapi or Giraffe. Even after the predator who claimed the kill—Lucy guessed it to be Megantereon or Snarling-dog—took what it needed, there would be plenty left. She often hunted with Vulture. It might find carrion first but she could drive it away by brandishing a branch and howling. While it circled overhead, awaiting a return to his meal, she grabbed what she wanted and escaped.
Feq must smell the blood but he had never been brave enough to chase Vulture away.  He would wait until the raptor finished, as well as Snarling-dog and whoever else showed up at the banquet, and then take what remained which wouldn’t be enough to live on.

Sun descended toward the horizon as they entered a dense thicket. They stuck to a narrow lightly-used animal trail bordered by heavy-trunked trees. Cousin Chimp scuffled as he brachiated through the understory, no doubt upset by the intruders. Only once, when a brightly-colored snake slithered across her path, did Lucy hesitate. The vibrant colors always meant deadly venom and she didn’t carry the right herbs to counter the poison. Baad grumbled when her thud reverberated out of sync with Raza’s, and Cousin Chimp cried a warning.
Finally, they broke free of the shadows and flew through waist-high grass, past trees laden with fruit, and around the termite mound where Cousin Chimp would gorge on white grubs—if Cheetah wasn’t sleeping on top of it.
I haven’t been back here since that day…
She flicked her eyes to the spot where her life had changed. Everything looked so calm, painted in vibrant colors scented with a heady mix of grass, water, and carrion. A family of Hipparion raised their heads but found nothing menacing so turned back to their banquet of new buds.
As though nothing happened…
Lucy sprinted. Her vision blurred and her head throbbed as she raced flat out, desperate to outdistance the memories. Her legs churned, arms pumped, and her feet sprang off the hard earth. Each step propelled her farther away. Her breathing heaved in rhythm with her steps. The sack around her neck smacked comfortingly against her body. Her sweat left a potent scent trail any predator could follow but Lucy didn’t care.
Someone far behind shouted her call sign but she only slowed when the thump in her chest outstripped her ability to breathe. She fell forward, arms outstretched, and gasped the damp air into her tortured lungs. Steps thumped louder, approaching, but she kept her eyes closed. A hand yanked her head back, forcing her to look up.
Despite the strangeness of Raza’s language, this she did understand: Never do that again.

Feq followed until Lucy had reached the edge of her—Feq’s—territory. Here, he must let her go. Without Feq, the Group’s few children and remaining female would die. She threw a last look at her brother’s forlorn face, drawn and tired, shoulders slumped, eyes tight with resolution. Lucy dipped her head and turned from her beleaguered past.

Maybe the language difference made Raza ignore Lucy’s every question though she tried an endless variety of vocalizations, gestures, and grunts. Something made him jumpy, constantly, but Lucy sniffed nothing other than the fragrant scrub, a family of chimps, and the ever-present Fire Mountain. Nor did she see any shift in the distant shadows to signal danger.
Still, his edginess made her anxious.
What is he hiding? Why does he never relax?
She turned toward the horizon hoping whatever connected sky to earth held firm, preventing danger from escaping and finding her. Garv credited Spider’s web with that task, said if it could capture Fly, it could connect those forces. Why it didn’t always work, Garv couldn’t explain. Herds and dust, sometimes fire, leaked through, as did Sun at the end of every day.  Lucy tried to reach that place from many different directions but it moved away faster than she could run.
Another truth Lucy knew: Only in Sun’s absence did the clouds crack and send bolts of fire to burn the ground and flash floods to storm through the canyons. Sun’s caring presence kept these at bay.
A grunt startled her back to the monotony of the grassland. At the rear of their column, Baad rubbed his wrists, already swollen to the thickness of his arm. When she dropped back to ask if she could help, his face hardened but not before she saw the anguish in the set of his mouth and the squint of his eyes. The elders of her Group suffered too from gnarled hands. A common root, found everywhere, dulled the ache.
Why bring a male as old and worn as Baad without that root?
Lucy guessed he had been handsome in his youth with his commanding size, densely-haired body, and brawny chest. Now, the hair hung gray and ragged and a white line as thick as Lucy’s finger cut his face from temple to ear. In his eyes smoldered lingering anger, maybe from the shattered tooth that peeked through his parted lips.
Was that why he didn’t try to rut with her? Or did he consider her pairmated to Raza? 
“Baad,” she bleated, mimicking the call sign Raza used. “This will help your wrist,” and handed him a root bundle from her neck sack. “Crack it open and swallow the juice.”
Baad sniffed the bulb, bit it, and slurped up the liquid. His jaw relaxed and the tension drained from his face, completely gone by the time they passed the hillock that had been on the horizon when Lucy first gave him the root.
“How did you know this would work?” Baad motioned as he watched her face.
Why didn’t he know was a better question. Lucy observed animals as they cared for their injuries. If Gazelle had a scrape on her flank, she bumped against a tree that wept sap so why shouldn’t Lucy rub the thick mucus on her own cut to heal it? If swallowing certain leaves rid Cousin Chimp of the white worms, why wouldn’t it do the same for Lucy? Over time, she’d collected the roots, blades, stems, bark, flowers, and other plant parts she and her Group came to rely on when sick.
But she didn’t know enough of Baad’s words to explain this so she shrugged. “I just knew.”
Baad remained at her side as though he wanted to talk more. 
Lucy took the opportunity. “Baad. Why did you and Raza come for me?”
He made her repeat the question as he watched her hands, body movements, and face, and then answered, “Sahn sent us.”
His movement for ‘sent’ was odd. One finger grazed the side of his palm and pointed toward his body—the backtrail, the opposite direction of the forward trail.
“Sent you?”
“Because of the deaths.”
Memories washed across his face like molten lava down the slopes of Fire Mountain. His hand motions shouted a rage she never associated with death. Predators killed to feed their families or protect their territory, as they must. Why did that anger Baad?
“Can you repeat that? The deaths?”
This time, the closest she could interpret was ‘deaths without reason’ which made no sense. Death was never without reason. Though he must have noticed she didn’t understand, he moved on to a portrayal of the world she would soon live within. His location descriptions were clear. In fact, her Group also labeled places by their surroundings and what happened there—stream-where-hunters-drink, mountains-that-burn-at-night, and mound-with-trees. Locations were meaningless without those identifications. Who could find them if not for their surroundings?
His next question surprised her.
“Why did you come?”
Bile welled in Lucy’s throat. She couldn’t tell him how she failed everyone in her Group or explain that she wanted a better life for the child she carried. Instead, she grunted and pretended she misunderstood.

That night, Lucy slept fitfully, curled under a shallow overhang without the usual protection of a bramble bush barrier or a tree nest. Every time she awoke, Raza and Baad were staring into the dark night, faces tight and anxious, muscles primed.
When Sun reappeared to begin its journey across the sky, the group set out, Lucy again between Raza and Baad. She shadowed the monotonous bounce of Raza’s head, comforted by the muted slap of her feet, the thump in her chest, and the stench of her own unwashed body. As they trotted ever onward, she became increasingly nervous. Though everything from the berries to the vegetation, animals, and baobab trees reminded her of home, this territory belonged to another group of Man-who-makes-tools. Before today, she would no sooner enter or cross it as they would hers. But Raza neither slowed nor changed direction so all she could do to respect this land-not-hers was to move through without picking a stalk of grass, eating a single berry, or swallowing any of the many grubs and insects available. Here and there, Lucy caught glimpses of the Group that called this territory theirs as they floated in the periphery of her sight. She smelled their anger and fear, heard them rustling as they watched her pass, reminding her she had no right to be here. Raza and Baad didn’t seem to care or notice. Did they not control territories where they lived?
Before she could ponder this any further, she snorted in a fragrance that made her gasp and turn. There on the crest of a berm across the savanna, outlined against the blue of the sky, stood a lone figure, hair puffed out by the hot breeze, gaze on her.
“Garv!” Lucy mouthed before she could stop herself. He’s dead. I saw it.
No arm waved and no voice howled the agony of separation.
“Raza!” Baad jerked his head toward the berm.
“Man-who-preys?” Raza asked with a rigid parallel gesture.
Lucy’s throat tightened at the hand movement for danger.
“Who is Man-who-preys?” Lucy labored with the call sign. “We don’t prey. We are prey.” Why did this confuse Raza?
Raza dropped back and motioned, “I refer to the one called Man-who-preys—upright like us but tall and skinny.” He described the creature’s footprints with the distinctive rounded top connected to the bottom by a narrow bridge. She knew every print of every animal in her homeland. These didn’t exist.
“No. I’ve never seen those prints.”
He paused and watched her face. “You’re sure Mammoth slaughtered your males?  Could it have been this animal?”
“No. I was there. I would have seen this stranger.”
Raza dropped back to talk to Baad. She tried to hear their conversation but they must have used hand motions. Who was this Man-who-preys and why did Raza think they caused the death of her Group’s males? Worse, if they followed Raza from his homeland, did that bring trouble to Feq?

Lucy easily kept up with Raza, her hand tight around an obsidian scraper as sharp and sturdy as the one the males gripped. Her wrist cords bulged like the roots of an old baobab, familiar with and accustomed to heavy loads and strenuous work. Both males remained edgy and tense, often running beside each other and sharing urgent hand motions. After one such exchange, Raza diverted from the route they had been following since morning to one less trodden. It’s what Lucy would do if worried about being tracked by a predator or to avoid a group of Man-who-makes-tools. They maintained a quicker-than-normal pace well past the edge of her world. That suited her fine though she doubted that Man-who-preys could be more perilous than what preyed in her mind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Announcing The Release Of "Write With Fey"

My last several weeks haven't been productive as far as writing is concerned.  Between my daughter's graduation, spring gardening, work related issues, and helping my wife with some of her projects, there just hasn't been any time left for writing. As a result, tomorrow's critique group meeting will be the second month in a row that I haven't submitted anything. (Hangs head in shame)

Fortunately, I do have some good news to report on the writing front. Chrys Fey has released her guide to publication and I'm pleased to announce that she is hosting a giveaway in honor of her accomplishment. So check out her book and be sure to enter the contest below.  

Good luck with the book, Chrys!


Catch the sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book!

Write with Fey: 10 Sparks to Guide You from Idea to Publication offers an abundance of data in one handy book. From writing your novel to prepping for publication and beyond, you’ll find sparks on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. You’ll also discover how to write specific scenes and characters, adding depth to your work.

•        Spark One: Being a Writer
•        Spark Two: Story Essentials
•        Spark Three: A Book’s Stepping Stones
•        Spark Four: How To
•        Spark Five: Character ER
•        Spark Six: Editing
•        Spark Seven: Publishing
•        Spark Eight: Marketing
•        Spark Nine: Writing About
•        Spark Ten: Final Inspiration

With so much information, you’ll take notes, highlight, and flag pages to come back to again and again on your writing journey.



 Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Fey realized she wanted to write by watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started her first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes.
Chrys Fey’s Links:


Open to all from June 4th 2018 – July 6th 2018
Click here to enter or use the form below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Insecure Writer and Writing "The End"

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

Why am I an Insecure Writer this month?

Because I finally finished my very first story, the fan fiction I’ve been working on for the last ten years, and this means I’m entering unknown territory.

Before I go any further, I should mention that this is only the first draft. There’s still a lot of editing to be done, both structurally and line editing-wise, but even so, this is the first time I’ve been able to write “The End” on anything, so I’m pretty excited. Well, perhaps “relieved” would be a better word. Woo hoo!

Photo courtesy of VisualHunt

I’m sure most of you established writers out there will feel an urge to roll your eyes at a rough draft that required ten years to write, but a decade ago I knew nothing about writing fiction. I had to learn so much about writing it's almost scary.  The first half of my story has gone through so many revisions I scarcely recognize the chapters anymore. But every time I learned about showing versus telling, or the proper way to do dialogue, or deep POV, or anything related to telling a good story, I had no choice but to go back and apply what I’d learned. I wanted this story to be the best it could be. 

Oh, did I mention I’m a slow writer too?

Yep, that’s pretty much sums up my life as a writer.

On top of all that, my focus over the past several years has been on  my other story--you know, the urban fantasy I can actually publish. Still, every time I found myself with a little extra time, I’d sneak back to the fan fic and make a little more progress.

Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure, but this fan fic is what seduced me into becoming a writer in the first place, back when I thought writing wasn’t for mortals. It’s the story that kept me going whenever the writing turned hard, especially when I realized I needed to rewrite a chapter based on some aspect of writing I’d just learned. I fell in love with my characters and wanted to see how everything worked out for them. To be honest, as much as I’m looking forward to publishing my urban fantasy, if I could only finish one story in my lifetime, I would choose the fan fic. What can I say? You never forget your first story. 

So what’s next? As I said before, I’m entering uncharted territory. I’ll find some beta readers who will happily point out where all the problems are, I'll keep working on the story until I’m satisfied, and then I'll upload it to Wattpad and celebrate. 

Now all I need to do is write “The End” on my urban fantasy. 

This month's question is: "What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?"

Character names, definitely. Despite having worked on my fan fic for over ten years, several of my characters still have placeholder names. Oh, the shame!


Update: Based on the comments, I realize I failed to mention what my story my fan fic was based on, so here's a hint. Check out the title of the blog. :)