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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!

 

One of the joys of writing is hearing from readers and seeing pictures of them with my books. I am pleased to have many faithful followers of the Amanda Travels series. Some have been reading about Amanda’s travels since I published the very first book, eight years ago. Here are a few pictures of my books in the hands of young readers.

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This avid reader bought a set of books for herself and for her friend, with her own money!

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This young reader has been an Amanda fan from the start.

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And she is still reading the books in Trinidad!

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A sweet little Amanda fan.

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Another special fan, from Australia!

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Special visitors at a book signing.

 

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These students still attend my presentations.

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More students who love Amanda.

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This clever young woman has already written three books of her own.

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A special fan in Spain

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A blogging friend’s gift to her granddaughter

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Happy to get another Amanda book for her birthday.

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Eager readers attend a book launch.

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New fans at the first book launch, 8 years ago.

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She enjoys reading her great-grandmother’s books

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A keen fan reading to her great-great-grandmother.

I also love hearing from those who have read my books. Here is a lovely email from a young reader.

Hi, Darlene, my name is Kynnlei and Marion is my auntie. She gave me three of your books and they are some of my favourite books. Please keep writing and she will keep buying. We give you encouragement to do what you are passionate about. 

And this from a young man being homeschooled who read two of my books for his reading assignments.

Dear Darlene:

I am doing a book report on your book titled, “Amanda in Alberta”.  I liked it! My favourite part is the horse ride in chapter 6.   I have been to many of these places, mostly with my dad in the semi truck.  Did you visit all of the places in your book? Can you make a book of “Amanda in Iceland”?  I think that would be awesome! Thank you for writing these amazing books!

Sincerely; Kegan

I understand he got very good marks on his assignments.

This is why I am so passionate about writing for kids!

If you have a picture of you or someone reading one of my books, please send it to me as I love to collect them. 

 

 

I will be away from blogging for a while as I am off to Canada to launch Amanda in New Mexico, do presentations and book signings in Vancouver, Delta, Calgary and Medicine Hat, visit with family and friends and stock up on Tim Hortons!! I’ll miss my blogging community but will check in from time to time.

Thanks so much to all of you who read my blog, like it, comment and share it. Time is limited and there are many great blogs out there to read, so I feel honoured that you take the time to read mine. I am so lucky to have such an awesome following.

I will leave you with the trailer to Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind

When I went back to Canada at the end of last year, I was pleased to be able to spend time at my favourite places – schools, libraries and bookstores, where I read from my latest book and spoke about my writing. It was a busy time but also a lot of fun. Here are a few pictures of my events and presentations.

I held the launch of Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music at Albany Books in Tsawwassen, BC. Ruth and the staff at this cosy, well-stocked bookstore have been so supportive of my books over the years. I was pleased to be back and to see so many of Amanda´s fans attend.

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My daughter at the book launch as well as a dear friend.

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Book launch at Albany Books, November 19 2016

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With Suzanne de Montigny, another author, who I featured here on my blog

I visited a number of schools in the Vancouver area where I showed a PowerPoint presentation I created, read from the book and answered questions about the book, me and my writing. The children were so attentive and asked amazing questions. One girl asked if she could take notes!

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At Charles Dickens Elementary

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The children liked the visuals I created from my own photographs in the PowerPoint presentation.

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Answering questions at Holly Elementary in Surrey, BC

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I thought this was such a funny poster in the library.

I also visited Webster Niblock School in Medicine Hat, Alberta, my hometown.  I read to the grade one and two classes in the library and then to the grade three to six classes in the gym. It was the largest group I have ever spoken to.

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The students loved the pictures of my dog Dot.

 

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Lots of questions from the crowd.

 

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The special thing about this visit was that it is the school my great granddaughter, Emma attends.

In Calgary, I spent a morning with the students at Red Deer Lake School in their magical library.

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Because I was travelling, I couldn´t bring my props with me. Fortunately, friends lent me appropriate things for my displays, including a nutcracker, which is featured in the book.

 

 

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I just love these school libraries.

 

The most special event for me was a presentation at The Medicine Hat Library. Although the original library  I visited as a child is no longer there, it was still a very nostalgic time for me. I took my children to this library and now my grandchildren and great grandchildren frequent it. Many friends, family and fans attended, some travelling long distances, which warmed my heart.

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Six-year-old great granddaughter attending my presentation at the local library. Who would have thought this would ever happen??

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Friends and family travelled far to attend my presentation.

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It was a dream come true for me! Yes, you can go home again. Everyone made me feel so special. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

And thank you for travelling with me on my book tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We just returned from a weekend in the lovely city of Valencia, a two-hour drive in the car from us. It is another one of those wonderful Spanish cities with fascinating architecture and its own unique personality. I will write more about it later and share pictures. Tomorrow I am off on a train to Madrid and the following day I will fly to Canada. I have a jam-packed schedule once there as I will be launching my latest book and visiting schools and libraries in Vancouver and area, Calgary and Medicine Hat. I’ll also be visiting friends and family in all three cities. So, I will not be spending much time on the computer over the next three weeks.

While wandering the streets of Valencia, I came upon this amazing Valencian traditional dance performance in a square behind the cathedral. It was the highlight of my trip. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I look forward to connecting again when I return!

It´s been a year since we launched Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. To celebrate I am a guest on the fabulous blog site Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Guest Post: Amanda in Alberta | Darlene Foster.

Book Description:

Amanda has travelled to some interesting places like the United Arab Emirates, Spain and England. She has always enjoyed herself, in spite of the dangerous situations she has found herself in. This time her BFF, Leah from England, is coming to visit her in Alberta. Will she be able to find enough fun things for them to do? After all it is only Alberta, her home province in Canada.

Read more about the book, a great review and a message from me here. Pop over to the site, make a comment and share if you wish, to help me celebrate.

Thanks so much for the support all of you have given me and Amanda over the past few years. 

Amanda in Alberta is born!

Amanda in Alberta is born!

Faithful supporters at the book launch July 2014

Faithful supporters at the book launch July 2014

 

My biggest fan and official photographer

My biggest fan and official photographer

Today was a fabulous sunny day and a perfect day to launch Amanda in Alberta – The Writing on the Stone. This is the fourth book in the Amanda travel adventure series. (Can it be possible that I have had 4 books published?) The event was held at Albany Books, a wonderful local book store. I was delighted to see so many of my friends and supporters stop in. I am blessed with the most amazing fans of my work. Those that couldn’t make it were there in spirit.

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Faithful followers of Amanda came from near and far.

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Young fans of Amanda and her adventures

My biggest fan and official photographer

My biggest fan and official photographer

I dedicated this book to my dear cowboy dad. The bolo tie I am wearing was his and the horseshoe on the table came from his ranch. I think he would have liked that. It was indeed a perfect day for a book launch!


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