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World Book Day was March 7th this year which also happens to be my birthday. When I was asked to visit an International School close to my home in Spain on March 7th, I was delighted. There is nothing I would rather do on my birthday than spend it with Grade 4, 5 and 6 students talking about my books and writing in general.

To celebrate World Book Day the students created book spines of favourite books to display on a wall. I was pleased to see Amanda in Spain amongst titles by Roald Dahl, J K Rowling and other great authors.

I spent the entire school day presenting to three grades of about forty students each. The children were very attentive, enjoyed the PowerPoint presentation, listening to the readings and eagerly joined in the brainstorming activity. I always love the Q and A session because you never know what you will get. Every group is different. One young person asked me “How long does it take to perfect a story?” Wow! Usually, they ask how long it takes to write a book but don’t even think about perfecting it. That prompted a discussion on revision. Another clever student asked me if I knew more about my main character than was in the book. From kids aged 10 to 12, these were astute questions.


Because they knew it was my birthday, I was given a lovely gift of chocolates and hand-made cards. I felt very special.

My birthday cake was made and decorated by Cakes ‘n’ Bakes, the local Coffee Shop I held a book signing at last year. Isn’t it just perfect!!


Since I was busy on my birthday, we decided to have an open house party on Sunday, March 10th, a sunny afternoon. About twenty friends, family and neighbours dropped by. Everyone had a great time and I was so happy to be surrounded by people I love.


Nice to see family

and writer friends

“It wouldn’t be a party without you” party plates

Some of the cake is gone but we are still having fun.


I was delighted with all the beautiful flowers I was gifted. You can never have too many flowers. 

So now I am another year older and look forward to the coming year! Life is good when you have friends, flowers, chocolate, sunshine and a dog!

Dot had a good time too, but was exhausted after the party.

I am pleased to be part of the book launch blog hop for Survival of the Fittest by the fabulous author, Jacqui Murray. Jacqui has put so much effort and research into this prehistoric novel. If you enjoy the novels of Jean Auel, you will love this one. Even if you don’t normally read prehistoric fiction, you might want to check this one out.  Here is a bit about the book.

Survival of the Fittest, by Jacqui Murray

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes–from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her. Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga

Genre: Prehistoric fiction

Cover by: Damonza

Available at: Kindle US Kindle UK Kindle CA Kindle AU

An early review, “Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Xhosa (my favourite!) is an unusual character, but she is fierce, powerful, intelligent and follows her instincts. A must-read if you like adventure, survival and strong female characters.”  Ronel Jaanse van Vuuren

Jacqui was asked, is there a goal to writing this story?

All the books in this series, Man vs. Nature, will be written with a goal of explaining how man’s essentials–art, music, culture, body adornments, religion, counting, spoken language, critical thinking, and abstract thinking—bloomed from our earliest roots.

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

Learn more about Jacqui by visiting these sites

http://twitter.com/worddreams

http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

https://worddreams.wordpress.com

https://jacquimurray.net

https:pinterest.com/askateacher

Be sure to ask Jacqui questions here in the comments.

To whet your appetite check out Chapter 1

Chapter 1, Survival of the Fittest

Her foot throbbed. Blood dripped from a deep gash in her leg. At some point, Xhosa had scraped her palms raw while sliding across gravel but didn’t remember when, nor did it matter. Arms pumping, heart thundering, she flew forward. When her breath went from pants to wheezing gasps, she lunged to a stop, hands pressed against her damp legs, waiting for her chest to stop heaving. She should rest but that was nothing but a passing thought, discarded as quickly as it arrived. Her mission was greater than exhaustion or pain or personal comfort.

She started again, sprinting as though chased, aching fingers wrapped around her spear. The bellows of the imaginary enemy—Big Heads this time—filled the air like an acrid stench. She flung her spear over her shoulder, aiming from memory. A thunk and it hit the tree, a stand-in for the enemy. With a growl, she pivoted to defend her People.

Which would never happen. Females weren’t warriors.

Feet spread, mouth set in a tight line, she launched her last spear, skewering an imaginary assailant, and was off again, feet light, her abundance of ebony hair streaming behind her like smoke. A scorpion crunched beneath her hardened foot. Something moved in the corner of her vision and she hurled a throwing stone, smiling as a hare toppled over. Nightshade called her reactions those of Leopard.

But that didn’t matter. Females didn’t become hunters either.

With a lurch, she gulped in the parched air. The lush green grass had long since given way to brittle stalks and desiccated scrub. Sun’s heat drove everything alive underground, underwater, or over the horizon. The males caught her attention across the field, each with a spear and warclub. Today’s hunt would be the last until the rain—and the herds—returned.

“Why haven’t they left?”

She kicked a rock and winced as pain shot through her foot. Head down, eyes shut against the memories. Even after all this time, the chilling screams still rang in her ears…

The People’s warriors had been away hunting when the assault occurred. Xhosa’s mother pushed her young daughter into a reed bed and stormed toward the invaders but too late to save the life of her young son. The killer, an Other, laughed at the enraged female armed only with a cutter. When she sliced his cheek open, the gash so deep his black teeth showed, his laughter became fury. He swung his club with such force her mother crumpled instantly, her head a shattered melon.

From the safety of the pond, Xhosa memorized the killer—nose hooked awkwardly from some earlier injury, eyes dark pools of cruelty. It was then, at least in spirit, she became a warrior. Nothing like this must ever happen again.

When her father, the People’s Leader, arrived that night with his warriors, he was greeted by the devastating scene of blood-soaked ground covered by mangled bodies, already chewed by scavengers. A dry-eyed Xhosa told him how marauders had massacred every subadult, female, and child they could find, including her father’s pairmate. Xhosa communicated this with the usual grunts, guttural sounds, hand signals, facial expressions, hisses, and chirps. The only vocalizations were call signs to identify the group members.

“If I knew how to fight, Father, Mother would be alive.” Her voice held no anger, just determination.

The tribe she described had arrived a Moon ago, drawn by the area’s rich fruit trees, large ponds, lush grazing, and bluffs with a view as far as could be traveled in a day. No other area offered such a wealth of resources. The People’s scouts had seen these Others but allowed them to forage, not knowing their goal was to destroy the People.

Her father’s body raged but his hands, when they moved, were calm.  “We will avenge our losses, daughter.”

The next morning, Xhosa’s father ordered the hunters to stay behind, protect the People. He and the warriors snuck into the enemy camp before Sun awoke and slaughtered the females and children before anyone could launch a defense. The males were pinned to the ground with stakes driven through their thighs and hands. The People cut deep wounds into their bodies and left, the blood scent calling all scavengers.

When Xhosa asked if the one with the slashed cheek had died, her father motioned, “He escaped, alone. He will not survive.”

Word spread of the savagery and no one ever again attacked the People, not their camp, their warriors, or their hunters.

While peace prevailed, Xhosa grew into a powerful but odd-looking female. Her hair was too shiny, hips too round, waist too narrow beneath breasts bigger than necessary to feed babies. Her legs were slender rather than sturdy and so long, they made her taller than every male. The fact that she could outrun even the hunters while heaving her spear and hitting whatever she aimed for didn’t matter. Females weren’t required to run that fast. Nightshade, though, didn’t care about any of that. He claimed they would pairmate, as her father wished, when he became the People’s Leader.

Until then, all of her time was spent practicing the warrior skills no one would allow her to use.

One day, she confronted her father. “I can wield a warclub one-handed and throw a spear hard enough to kill. If I were male, you would make me a warrior.”

He smiled. “You are like a son to me, Daughter. I see your confidence and boldness. If I don’t teach you, I fear I will lose you.”

He looked away, the smile long gone from his lips. “Either you or Nightshade must lead when I can’t.”

Under her father’s tutelage, she and Nightshade learned the nuances of sparring, battling, chasing, defending, and assaulting with the shared goal that never would the People succumb to an enemy. Every one of Xhosa’s spear throws destroyed the one who killed her mother. Every swing of her warclub smashed his head as he had her mother’s. Never again would she stand by, impotent, while her world collapsed. She perfected the skills of knapping cutters and sharpening spears, and became expert at finding animal trace in bent twigs, crushed grass, and by listening to their subtle calls. She could walk without leaving tracks and match nature’s sounds well enough to be invisible.

A Moon ago, as Xhosa practiced her scouting, she came upon a lone warrior kneeling by a waterhole. His back was to her, skeletal and gaunt, his warclub chipped, but menace oozed from him like stench from dung. She melted into the redolent sedge grasses, feet sinking into the squishy mud, and observed.

His head hair was sprinkled with grey. A hooked nose canted precariously, poorly healed from a fracas he won but his nose lost. His curled lips revealed cracked and missing teeth. A cut on his upper arm festered with pus and maggots. Fever dimpled his forehead with sweat. He crouched to drink but no amount of water would appease that thirst.

What gave him away was the wide ragged scar left from the slash of her mother’s cutter.

Xhosa trembled with rage, fearing he would see the reeds shake, biting her lip until it bled to stop from howling. It hardly seemed fair to slay a dying male but fairness was not part of her plan today.

Only revenge.

A check of her surroundings indicated he traveled alone. Not that it mattered. If she must trade her life for his, so be it.

But she didn’t intend to die.

The exhausted warrior splashed muddy water on his grimy head, hands slow, shoulders round with fatigue, oblivious to his impending death. After a quiet breath, she stepped from the sedge, spear in one hand and a large rock in the other. Exposed, arms ready but hanging, she approached. If he turned, he would see her. She tested for dry twigs and brittle grass before committing each foot. It surprised her he ignored the silence of the insects. His wounds must distract him. By the time hair raised on his neck, it was too late. He pivoted as she swung, powered by fury over her mother’s death, her father’s agony, and her own loss. Her warclub smashed into his temple with a soggy thud. Recognition flared moments before life left.

“You die too quickly!” she screamed and hit him over and over, collapsing his skull and spewing gore over her body. “I wanted you to suffer as I did!”

Her body was numb as she kicked him into the pond, feeling not joy for his death, relief that her mother was avenged, or upset at the execution of an unarmed Other. She cleaned the gore from her warclub and left. No one would know she had been blooded but the truth filled her with power.

She was now a warrior.

When she returned to home base, Nightshade waited. Something flashed through his eyes as though for the first time, he saw her as a warrior. His chiseled face, outlined by dense blue-black hair, lit up. The corners of his full lips twitched under the broad flat nose. The finger-thick white scar emblazoned against his smooth forehead, a symbol of his courage surviving Sabertooth’s claws, pulsed. Female eyes watched him, wishing he would look at them as he did Xhosa but he barely noticed.

The next day, odd Others with long legs, skinny chests, and oversized heads arrived. The People’s scouts confronted them but they simply watched the scouts, spears down, and then trotted away, backs to the scouts. That night, for the first time, Xhosa’s father taught her and Nightshade the lessons of leading.

“Managing the lives of the People is more than winning battles. You must match individual skills to the People’s requirements be it as a warrior, hunter, scout, forager, childminder, Primary Female, or another.  All can do all jobs but one best suits each. The Leader must decide,” her father motioned.

As they finished, she asked the question she’d been thinking about all night. “Father, where do they come from?”

“They are called Big Heads,” which didn’t answer Xhosa’s question.

Nightshade motioned, “Do they want to trade females? Or children?”

Her father stared into the distance as though lost in some memory. His teeth ground together and his hands shook until he clamped them together.

He finally took a breath and motioned, “No, they don’t want mates. They want conflict.” He tilted his head forward. “Soon, we will be forced to stop them.”

Nightshade clenched his spear and his eyes glittered at the prospect of battle. It had been a long time since the People fought.

But the Big Heads vanished. Many of the People were relieved but Xhosa couldn’t shake the feeling that danger lurked only a long spear throw away. She found herself staring at the same spot her father had, thoughts blank, senses burning. At times, there was a movement or the glint of Sun off eyes, but mostly there was only the unnerving feeling of being watched. Each day felt one day closer to when the People’s time would end.

“When it does, I will confess to killing the Other. Anyone blooded must be allowed to be a warrior.”

Pick up your copy soon!

 

I am delighted to be featured on Aurora Alexander’s blog once again.

Writer's Treasure Chest

It is a very special pleasure for me to welcome you back on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’. In your former visits we learned about your writing, your writing process and asked for some advice. But there are so many more questions to ask!

Let’s see what you can tell us today:

1. Would you please describe your writer’s spot?

If you mean where I do my writing, it is usually in my office in my home in Spain. It’s the spare bedroom which we have turned into my office with a desk, computer and comfy office chair. I’m surrounded by books, magazines, a dictionary, thesaurus and other writer’s aids. Pictures of my family grace the walls. It is not a neat and tidy place but it works for me. I also hand write in the car (while hubby is driving, of course) on airplanes and sitting on my sunny terrace.

2…

View original post 824 more words

Today I’m helping authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi launch their new book, The Emotion Thesaurus (Second Edition)! I have already posted about this great writer’s resource here. And some of you have already ordered it. I love my copy and am already using it while writing Amanda in Malta-The Sleeping Lady.


You might know about The Emotion Thesaurus or even have it on your shelf. But chances are, you may not have known a second edition was in the works. Becca and Angela decided to keep it a surprise and only recently announced the book was releasing!

The Emotion Thesaurus is known for its powerful lists that help writers show (rather than tell) character emotion through body language, thoughts, visceral sensations, dialogue cues, and behavior. This second edition gives writers more of what they love: more emotions (55 more to be exact!) more teaching content, and more writing tips.
Here are three of the new entries: Euphoria, Vindicated, and Schadenfreude. This book is almost twice the size of the original, so it’s almost two books in one.
Anyway, if you’d like to check into it, Goodreads has some reviews up, and you can find more information here.

The Emotion Thesaurus 2nd Edition is available in Print, eBook, and PDF

One More Thing…Want to Attend a FREE Writing Conference?
Or a writing retreat? A workshop? Or even have your yearly membership to a professional writer’s organization suddenly paid for?
OF COURSE YOU DO!
Angela and Becca have a giveaway on right now to celebrate their release, and one lucky winner will get their choice of the above, up to a $500 US value. There are some conditions so check that out, but this is the giveaway of a lifetime, so hurry over to enter. And good luck!

You can enter this great giveaway HERE

So whether you write blogs, books, short stories, poems, newsletters or letters to your grandmother, or grandchildren, you need a copy of this book. It is also a great gift for the writers in your life!

 

https://writershelpingwriters.net/bookstore/

 

 

I follow the blog of pre-school teacher Jennie Fitkzee at A Teacher’s Reflections. Jennie is an amazing teacher who truly loves her job and shares her 30-year teaching experiences with her readers. In some of her posts, she talks about the importance of reading out loud and of reading chapter books to children who cannot yet read. Here is some of what she has to say.

Jennie and her students with a favourite chapter book

The Importance of Reading Chapter Books by Jennie

In order to read, and more importantly to want to read, it all starts with parents and family reading aloud to children, every day. The statistics on reading aloud and its link to academic success in all areas is profound. If reading is a pleasurable experience, then school work is by far easier. Every child begins school wanting to learn to read. In other words, we’ve got 100 percent of enthusiastic kindergarteners when they start school. The National Report Card found that among fourth-graders, only 54 percent read for pleasure. Among eighth graders, only 30 percent read for pleasure. By twelfth grade, only 19 percent read anything for pleasure daily. Yikes! What happened? The better question might be, what did not happen?

The seeds of not only learning to read but loving to read were not planted early. Reading aloud to children for 30 minutes every day, starting at birth and continuing after they have learned to read, is the single best thing a parent can do to build a reader. I know this. When I read aloud in my classroom, it’s the time that children are totally absorbed. Totally. A good story, read aloud, is the best learning and pleasure experience I give to children. It opens the door to questions and discovery.

People often ask why I chapter read.  After all, many of the children in my classroom are three-years-old.  When we chapter read, the children don’t have an image from a picture book.  They have to make the pictures in their head.  That requires language development.  The more they hear, the more they learn.  Even the youngest children benefit enormously.  For example, they may not ‘get’ the humor of the goose repeating everything three times in Charlotte’s Web, but they are still getting a huge dose of language.  And, that language is sparking their imagination.  No pictures; just words pouring into eager, young minds and creating their own images.

Jennie discussing a chapter book with a student

Chapter reading is one of our treasured moments of the day at school.  Books bring to life the imagination, the world, and the past.  The anticipation of ‘what happens next’ stirs excitement every day.  Children listen and talk.  They ask questions.  When I ask children, “At chapter reading where do you make the pictures?” they answer “In your head.”

Reading aloud is the best thing I do with, and for, children.  They are preschoolers.  Yes, I chapter read to four-year-olds.  It is marvelous.  After three decades of teaching, I know this is “it”.  Learning can happen unexpectedly, and reading aloud is often the catalyst.  Children don’t need to sit and listen to a book in silence.  Asking questions is a good thing!

Reading aloud is the gift of language, and language is the most important element in a child’s development and success in school.  Wow!  The number of words a child knows can be directly attributed to his or her success in school; not just in English, but in Math and Science as well.  Perhaps these are the most important words a parent can hear.  Reading aloud is a strong part of my classroom curriculum, and children love it!  The more you read aloud at home increases your child’s development!  The biggest bonus is bonding together.  Nothing beats snuggling with Mom or Dad, one-on-one, reading a book.  Life is good!

Jennie

I have often been asked why I don’t have my Amanda Travels books illustrated. This is why. I want my readers to create their own images. I also hesitate to categorize my books for 8 to 12-year-olds as many pre-schoolers enjoy my books being read to them by adults or older siblings. One grandmother read my books to her three-year-old granddaughter, who loved them and drew pictures of Ali Baba the camel from Amanda in Arabia. This young woman is now 12 and still enjoys reading, including the Amanda Travels series.

Follow Jennie’s blog with more meaningful reflections of an experienced teacher https://jenniefitzkee.com/

On my recent trip back to my home province of Alberta, I was fortunate to visit two schools where I did presentations, readings, and workshops. I may have mentioned before that doing school presentations is my favourite part of being a writer. These two visits were very special.

I was invited by a school in Airdrie, Alberta to visit as the Grade 4 classes are currently reading Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. I did four presentations to the grade four classes at Herons Crossing School the day after I landed in Calgary. The students were delightful and devoted Amanda Travels fans. Some had read all the books. They said they enjoyed the use of cliffhangers in the stories. I love that kind of feedback. They were all well behaved and asked very good questions.

Students eagerly listening while I read from Amanda in Alberta.

A few days later I visited Irvine School, just outside Medicine Hat, where I did a presentation in the library to about 70 grade 3 and 4 students. After the recess, I did a workshop with one of the Grade 4 classes.

This was a double special visit as I went to Irvine School myself many years ago and it is now the school my great-granddaughter attends. It is not the same building I attended as the original school burnt down in 1989 and has been replaced by a modern building. But it was a memorable visit for me. I brought along my old high school sweater and yearbook to show the children that I had once attended that very school.

Presentation in the library

Considering it was just a couple of days before the Christmas break, the students were very attentive and asked great questions. After sitting on the floor for quite some time, the teacher had them get up and do a few exercises.

After the presentation, many came up to ask more questions.

Later, I facilitated a workshop on using all the senses in writing. Using a photograph as a prompt, we brainstormed words describing the five senses. Everyone participated. Later they were given ten minutes to hand write something based on a picture, using as many of the senses as possible. Some shared their writing. I was amazed at how eager they were to do the assignment and how they produced such incredible work in a short time. A great example of how children still love to read and write.

Facilitating a workshop with eager participants is so much fun.

My oldest grandson was my driver, helper, and photographer. He was a huge help.

My grandson and his niece (my great-granddaughter)

I was so impressed with the school, the teachers and the staff. There was such a positive vibe in the place. Wonderful quotes decorated the hallway walls.

And look what I found on a door in the girl’s washroom!

Talk about positive reinforcement!

I went back to my old school and found that the future is in good hands. 

In December 2012 a good friend of mine gave me a copy of The Emotion Thesaurus – A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, as a Christmas gift. It was the best gift ever and has been a huge help to my writing over the past six years. Since then I have recommended this useful writer’s aid to many other writers.

For the last month, I’ve been part of a Street Team for Angela and Becca at Writers Helping Writers, who are launching their new writing book on February 19th. Because they are known for showing, not telling, they decided it would be fun to keep the thesaurus book’s topic a secret until the book cover reveal…WHICH IS TODAY!
It’s been hard keeping quiet about this, so I am thrilled I can finally announce that The Emotion Thesaurus Second Edition is coming!


Many of you writers know (and possibly use) the original Emotion Thesaurus. It released in 2012 and became a must-have resource for many because it contained lists of body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations for 75 emotions, making the difficult task of showing character emotion on the page much easier.

Over the years, people have asked Angela and Becca to add more emotions, so they decided to create a second edition. It contains 55 NEW entries, bringing the total to 130 emotions.
This book is almost DOUBLE IN SIZE and there’s a lot more new content, so I recommend checking it out. And you can. Right now.

Here is a sample writing tip for you.

To view a sample of the emotion vindicated click here  

and click here to see a full list of all the emotions listed in this amazing new addition.

Preorder Alert!
This book is available for preorder so you can find all the details about this new book’s contents by visiting Amazon, Print & KindleKobo, iBooks, and Indiebound, or swinging by Writers Helping Writers.

One last thing…Angela & Becca have a special gift for writers HERE. If you like free education, stop by and check it out. (It’s only available for a limited time!)

If you struggle with showing instead of telling or just need new ideas of how to express your character’s emotions, check this book out, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve preordered mine. 


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