Jacqui Murray

30 Mar

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-eighth grade, creator of a passel of technology training books for middle school and technology in education generally. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, and more. Currently, she’s editing a thriller for her agent that should be out to publishers this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

Jacqui won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award for her upcoming techno-thriller, To Hunt a Sub (excerpt available on Reviewers laud her novel as ‘strongly written’ with ‘interesting and unique plot hooks’. She’s currently working on a prehistoric character-driven novel, Born in a Treacherous Time (excerpt available on She was born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, a BA in Russian and an MBA, she worked for twenty years in a variety of industries while raising her two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. With her children now adults, one in the Navy and one in the Army, she lives in Laguna Hills CA with her husband and two beautiful Labradors.. She teaches computer science to grades K-8 while pursuing her writing.

You can find her columns, guest posts and thoughts at the following digital ezines, blogs and websites:

If you’re interested in having Jacqui guest post on your blog, website, or review a product/website/book for you, please contact her at

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8 Tips to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

22 Oct

woman writerEvery year, thousands of people jump into the massive time commitment called NaNoWriMo. They vow to write 50,000 words by November 30th at midnight. Few make it, but many benefit. Here are some tips to help you if you’ve chosen to participate:

  • Each day, write until your mind throbs like a thumb hit with a hammer
  • Dinner is defined as ‘microwave’
  • Choose your words like steps in a minefield–no, don’t do that. Choose them like it’s a field of daisies–no danger there. Just get all those thoughts down on paper. Your goal is quantity–quality comes later.
  • Write until sleep hits you like a prizefighter’s punch
  • If you’ve been struggling with your writing, consider this an intervention. It’s a totally different approach with lots of epeople on the sidelines cheering you on. Go get ‘em!
  • When you need a break, read in your genre. It’s quite inspirational.
  • As you write, the picture you hope to create is probably Michelangelo rather than Jackson Pollock. That’s OK. You’ll fix it later.
  • Whoever or whatever calls you, let it go to voice mail. Except the dog. That may be too important to miss.

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Book Review: Law of Primitive Man

17 Oct

The Law of Primitive Man: A Study in Comparative Legal DynamicsThe Law of Primitive Man: A Study in Comparative Legal Dynamics

by E. Adamson Hoebel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I have a long-standing passion for early man. He is my ancestor. He laid the foundation for what we as Modern Man accomplishes. How did he survive in a feral world where his skin was too thin (unlike the rhino) and his teeth too dull (unlike the sabertooth)? What was his magic tool? To answer these questions, I read the entire Aliso Viejo CA library on prehistoric man. I have a good idea how we made it through the Plio-Pleistocene, evolved from Homo habilis to become the workhorse of the human species–Homo erectus. Read the rest of this entry »

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Humor that Inspires–for Teachers! Part V

09 Oct

funny quotesIf you liked the last Humor that Inspires (Part 1, and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4), here are more to kick-start your day:

  1. “The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C’, the idea must be feasible.”
    – A Yale University management professor in response to student Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
  2. “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
    – H. M. Warner (1881-1958), founder of Warner Brothers, in 1927
  3. “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.”
    – Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962
  4. “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
    – Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
  5. “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.”
    – Mark Twain (1835-1910)
  6. “A pint of sweat, saves a gallon of blood.”
    – General George S. Patton (1885-1945)
  7. “After I’m dead I’d rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.”
    – Cato the Elder (234-149 BC, AKA Marcus Porcius Cato)
  8. “He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”
    – Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
  9. “Don’t let it end like this. Tell them I said something.”
    – last words of Pancho Villa (1877-1923)
  10. “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”
    – Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Marketing Tips

01 Oct

writers groupThis post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group. Click the link for details on what #IWSG means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month is the one year anniversary of this group. Instead of an insecurity, we’re sharing tips on writing, publishing, and marketing. Here are my top ten tips on marketing:

  1. Spend a few minutes a day working on the cover bio – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to the work of writing. (credit: Roddy Doyle)
  2. When do you start marketing? When you run out of words to write in your book.
  3. Nothing says ‘marketing’ like spray-and-pray: Post to blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, FB, LinkedIn. Comment on other people’s blogs, tweets, FB stream, LinkedIn discussions. Do this a lot!
  4. Marketing is like Groundhog Day. Every morning, wake up and do everything under #3. And then repeat.
  5. The key to marketing: Get to the part quickly where readers give a s***. They don’t like to waste time.
  6. Marketing is baby steps. Doing something–(see #3 and #4)–anything–lessons the panic of wondering “What the f*** do I do now?”
  7. If speaking nicely about yourself feels like choking on a chicken bone, get over it. It’s like the Heimlich Maneuver–it must be done or your book will die.
  8. When trying a new marketing approach, be a tad on the wildly optimistic side.
  9. Who hasn’t found a room s/he can’t dominate? Pick that room. Share your good news.
  10. The shortest distance between two people is a good laugh. Remember that when you’re marketing.

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Book Review: Letters From the Field Part II

24 Sep

Letters from the Field, 1925-1975Letters from the Field, 1925-1975

by Margaret Mead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

If you didn’t read my last week’s post here, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead’s decades-old book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder–I think I wandered a bit. Here’s the synopsis: I’m writing a series on the life of earliest man–think 2 million years ago. There is little primary evidence, so I must do a lot of extrapolation based on facts. I’ve read scores of books that nibble around the edges, all resulting in a pretty good feel for what their lives might have been like.

One of those books is Margaret Mead’s Letters From the Field. She spent most of her life living with primitive tribes so she could understand their worlds. This primary research influenced every corner of her life. For example, she is widely quoted as saying:

It takes a village

This is her daughter’s discussion of that oft-quoted and rarely-attributed concept:

“One of the ideas my mother got from Samoa,” she says, when asked about the concepts that shaped her childhood, “was that the way people were connected to each other was primarily based on kinship. That meant that children had a place in many households and a lot of adults were involved in the life of every child. So in raising me, my mother very deliberately created an extended family. I spent time in many households and learned different attitudes toward the world, and the rules were different. Her approach is reflected in an African proverb which is often quoted in the United States: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ My mother created a village for me to grow up with, and it was the existence of that village that allowed her to pursue her career and come and go and feel that I was not abandoned.”

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Book Review: Letter from the Field–Part I

18 Sep

margaret meadMargaret Meade was born in 1901, a time when a woman’s place wasn’t doing field research in island jungles. That didn’t matter to her a wit when she went to Samoa at the age of twenty-three to study the life of the residents. Turned out, she had an excellent eye for decoding what she saw. Plus, she could write–not in the stodgy scientific way of most researchers, but with words people understood. She made them care about these far-away lives by relating their lives to emotions every person understands–love, hate, dreams, joy, child caring. Here are words you’ve heard, probably didn’t know they came from Margaret Mead:

It takes a village.

The primitive tribe who inspired these words likely no longer exists, but the power of the emotion rings true even today.

Her time in Samoa resulted in the first of forty immensely popular books on how human beings get along in groups–cultural anthropology. Her subjects were mostly preliterate, non-Western civilizations, and chock full of brilliance, empathy, common sense–traits ascribed usually to modern, civilized peoples, not those who wear loin clothes and live in huts.

I discovered Margaret Mead because I wanted to understand how mankind arrived at our current evolved state of culture (religious, art-lovers, decorating our bodies, problem-solvers able to ignore instinct in favor of cognitive decisions–traits that set us apart from every other living species). I’d emptied my local library of books by the obvious experts–Donald Johanson and the famous Lucy


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9/11… We Remember

11 Sep

America, we love you.


5 Top Ways to Integrate Technology into the New School Year

08 Sep

I was reading an article–Five Real Reasons Why Teachers Don’t Use Technology More–from eSchool News listing the reasons why teachers don’t use technology. Included were some that probably resonate with educators at your school–Portrait of Asian secretary sitting at desk

  • it keeps changing so how do you decide what to choose
  • too much to do, too little time
  • teachers are pulled in too many directions
  • unreliable technology
  • no respect for the teacher’s voice in this tech ed process

I was nodding, thinking of people the reasons fit perfectly–and then I noticed: The article was written in


That’s right–fifteen years ago and nothing’s changed.

Have you been giving the same reasons for fifteen years too, hoping the tech demons will just go away and leave you to teach in peace? Every June, do you say, I got through another year without this or that tech tool–and everything went well.

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A Day in the Life of a Tech Teacher

04 Sep

teacher-359311_640I love summer. I sit at home, reading, researching, chatting with friends. I make my own schedule, own my own time, start and finish a project without interruptions.

That is a massive high to me.

Why? I’m a tech teacher. That is like a teacher+. I teach–yes–but I’m also the first line of defense (sometimes offense) for colleagues as they struggle to use the digital devices populating their classrooms. From the moment I step foot on her home campus, life spins out of my control. Here’s a typical day I have–does it sound familiar:

6:45 arrive

6:47 a student arrives to use lab

6:48 I greet student with a friendly hi and begin work on a lesson plan

6:49 Student asks for help

7:00 Student finishes and leaves; I return to my lesson plan

7:02 Frantic teacher calls–her computer won’t boot up. She came in early to do some work and now what’s she supposed to do can I come right away

7:03 I arrive in teacher classroom to help

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Most Commented Posts

25 Aug

I’m alpeople icons dialog speech bubblesways surprised by which posts inspire readers to comment. Like most writers, I have a small group of devoted fans who I can always count on to remind me I’m not writing to a void. But beyond these wonderful efriends, each post garners a few more responses from people I don’t know. I always drop by their blogs to visit and see what motivates them to be bloggers and writers. Sometimes, they’re artists, poets, good Samaritans, and/or just plain ordinary people who have reached out.

I want to share some of my most commented blogs with you. This list is surprisingly different from ‘Most Visited’. I’ll show you the comparison:

Most Commented

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark ImaginationFace people   on Cement wall texture background
  2. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  3. 10 Tips for Picture Book Writers (a guest post from a wonderful efriend and artist)
  4. 8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers
  5. 10 Tips for Steampunk Writers (this one surprised me. I wrote it based on research and found out what an amazing genre this is)
  6. 6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging
  7. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  8. #IWSG–Am I a Storyteller?
  9. 14 Tips for Young Adult Writers
  10. 13 Ways to Exorcise Wordiness

Most Visited

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination (tops both lists. That surprised me)
  2. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  3. 35 Weird Traits Your Characters May Have
  4. How to Describe a Landscape
  5. How to Describe Nature
  6. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  7. One-Word Characteristics to Spice Up Your Writing
  8. How to Describe a Person’s Clothing
  9. How To Describe Noses, Mouths, Legs, and more
  10. How to Describe Dogs

I’d love to hear what your most-commented blog post is.

Jacqui Murray is the author of dozens of books (on technology in education) as well as the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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Posted in Writing