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

No Comments

Posted in Musings


How I’m Doing on ‘To Hunt a Sub’

28 Jan

trident submarineIt’s been a decade since I started To Hunt a Sub. I took a break and wrote the sequel when I couldn’t find a publisher, then returned to a series I started fifteen years ago about early man (called The Evolution Files). After an aborted attempt to work with an agent, I returned to To Hunt a Sub. I couldn’t put it behind me until I put it out there for the world. I decided to fix its problems, then finish/publish my other two completed novels before moving on to a new topic.

I started that last year (more on that soon). I might be a month away from finishing my WIP, To Hunt a Sub–vastly different from ‘publishing’ it. By ‘finished’, I mean I’ve:

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Posted in Writing


What to do When Computers Are Down

26 Jan
sideways cat on laptopAll tech teachers have experienced a day when the computers don’t work. You jiggle the mouse and nothing. You reboot and the screens remain dark. You know how to tap dance when the internet won’t connect (use software instead) or a particular program refuses to load (go to your Symbaloo page of alternatives).
But what happens when the computers themselves are down–a systemic virus, or a site-wide upgrade that went bad? What do you do with the eager faces who tumble across your threshold ready for their once-a-week computer time? You need something that ties into technology without using it.
Here are some ideas:

Discuss digital citizenship

This is a topic that needs to be discussed every year, repetitively. When I teach digital citizenship, it always includes lots of back-and-forth conversation and surprised faces. Students have no idea that the right to use online resources includes responsibilities. In getting that point across, I end up answering endless questions, many that revolve around, ‘But no one knows who I am’, ‘But how can I be caught‘.

Use tech downtime to delve into this topic. Gather in a circle and talk about concepts like ‘digital footprint’, ‘plagiarism’, and ‘digital privacy’. Common Sense has a great poster (see image below) that covers these through a discussion on when to put photos online. You can print it out or display it on the Smartscreen. Take your time. Solicit lots of input from students–like their experiences with online cyberbullies and Instagram, and what happens with their online-enabled Wii platforms. It can be their personal experience or siblings.

A note: The poster says it’s for middle and high school, but I use it with students as young as third grade by scaffolding and backfilling the discussion:

Read the rest of this entry »


3 Apps to Combat Grammar Faux Pas

22 Jan

Grammar has often been a subject students resisted learning, were bored by, or flat out didn’t understand. That’s changed, thanks to the popularity of iPads and their multimedia, multi-sensory apps. Here are three apps that will turn your classroom grammar program around.


Free (fee required for full options)

4/5 stars


Called the Schoolhouse Rock of the 21st Century, Grammaropolis gamifies a subject that has traditionally been about laboriously conjugating verbs and diagramming sentences. Its eight cheery cartoon characters star in 9 books, 9 music videos, 20 animated shorts, 26 quiz categories, and a multitude of games which–when blended together–teach grammar. Through the vehicle of a map, catchy music and fast-paced lessons, students learn the parts of speech and win seals. Content is thorough, useful, and accurate, the app intuitive to use with a minimal learning curve. There is no software to download, no maintenance, no fuss. Students can sign up as an individual or through a class account where the teacher can track their progress. It’s available on iPads, smartphones, and the web.The iPad app opens immediately to the student account (only one user per iPad account) while the web interface requires a log-in.

Read the rest of this entry »


2014, I Resolve…

14 Jan

NY ResolutionsNew Years–a time for rest, rejuvenation and repair. A time to assess life. Do we settle into our routine, enjoy where it’s headed, or is it time to grab our purse, our iPhone, our car keys, and get out of there?

Here are my resolutions this year. Lots of them! This is actually more of a To Do list. I break it down into Fiction (for my novel writing), Non-fiction (for my tech ed writing), Blogs (for my four blogs) and Business (for marketing my myriad of books):


  • Rewrite and publish To Hunt a Sub. This tech thriller series uses science to drive the plot. The science is current, not futuristic, with extrapolations on what can be accomplished. The characters are damaged, flawed, and heroic. The plot is fast-paced, non-stop (which I have to work on). At one point almost ten years ago, I called this book completed. Now, I’m glad I took a second look. I like it much better. I’ll be giving you updates over the next few months with a tentative plan to get it out before summer.
  • Rewrite the sequel to To Hunt a SubTwenty-Four Days. This is the second in the series and plays up the part of my AI Otto in solving mysteries. This, too, I called completed at one point. Then I edited and called it completed. Then my agent offered advice, I made changes and called it completed. Yikes! I’m getting sick of it! This time, I’ll go through it, fix problems, and self-pub! I need to move on. I won’t finish it this year, but I’ll get started, with a planned publication date of mid-next year.
  • I attended Richard Bausch’s amazing workshop last year on writing. 2014, I need to find another motivating class to enrich my writing. Any ideas?

Read the rest of this entry »


Top 10 Commented-on Articles and Click-throughs in 2014

12 Jan

2013When readers take time to leave a comment and/or click through to a link I include in a post, it means they trust me, are engaged, and find what they’re reading valuable–want to extend it. This year, I had many more comments than in 2013–about 4200 (I know, Tess and Medeia. You-all get that in a couple of months). This compared to just over 9,000 over the life of my blog. Why? I’m not sure. I will say I selfishly have enjoyed my readers much more this year. The perspective I get and the vast range of experience is like nothing else in life. I live in a bubble and you-all let me venture out of it.

The 2014 articles that inspired this kind of activity from readers are special to me. I learn a lot by noticing what contributed to the WordDreams community.

Here they are–the ten most commented and most clicked-through articles I shared in 2013:

Top 10 commented-on articles

  1. 51 Great Similes to Spark Imagination
  2. 10 Tips for Picture Book Writers
  3. How to Describe an American–if You Aren’t
  4. 8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers
  5. 13 Ways to Exorcise Wordiness
  6. 10 Tips for Steampunk Writers
  7. 6 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Blogging
  8. 178 Ways to Describe Women’s Clothing
  9. #IWSG–Am I a Storyteller?
  10. 14 Tips for Young Adult Writers

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Posted in Writing


Top 10 Book Reviews in 2014

07 Jan

There are two parts to this post:

  • my top ten favorite books that I read in 2014
  • your (as reader) top ten favorite book reviews I wrote in 2014

My Top Ten Favorite Books

I read 156 books according to my Goodreads list.

goodreads books read this yearI love reading and would prefer to do that than watch TV, go to the gym, floss my teeth, pay bills, or do the laundry. I review a lot of the books I read, usually as part of my Amazon Vine gig, but not all. The book reviews on WordDreams are only one collection. Most of them have to do with the craft of writing or fiction in my genre (loosely including, tech, mystery, thrillers). I also review books on education, the military, and general for my other blogs. I collect all of my book reviews here, but it isn’t always up to date.

I try.

When I read for fun, I often read thrillers, mysteries, historic fiction so you’ll see a lot of those on the top ten list.

My ten favorite books that I read in 2014 (in no particular order) are as follows:

  1. Russell Blake’s Jet series
  2. Lee Child’s Personal (Jack Reacher)
  3. Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector (written with Mark Greaney)
  4. Jeffrey Deaver’s Skin Collector
  5. Mari Hannah’s Kate Daniels series
  6. Mai Jia’s Decoded
  7. David Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series
  8. Steven Saylor’s series on Ancient Rome
  9. Jeff Shaara’s WWII trilogy
  10. Wilbur Smith’s Taita series (about ancient Egypt)

Top Ten Book Reviews

I reviewed 48 books in 2014, everything from American Sniper to Writing From A to Z. Overall, book reviews’ is a popular topic on WordDreams. I understand that because I love reading reviews of books by other writers. Here are the top ten book reviews based on hits in 2014 (Note: this isn’t just book reviews written in 2014. It’s based on visits to all reviews from the last five years):

  1. Book Review: Killing Lincoln (anyone surprised by this?)
  2. Book Review: Killing Patton
  3. Book Review: The Tree Where Man Was Born
  4. Book Review: The Catch
  5. Book Review: No Easy Day
  6. Book Review: Self-editing for Fiction Writers
  7. Book Review: American Sniper
  8. Book Review: Elements of Style
  9. Book Review: Killer Angels
  10. Book Review: Bones Never Lie

Since I read about three books a week, I’m always eager for new material. What’s your favorite book from 2014?

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. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, 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. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. 

Follow me.

No Comments

Posted in Writing


10 Hits and Misses for 2014

06 Jan

2012Since I started this blog five-and-a-half years ago, I’ve had almost 900,000 visitors, 3300 on my busiest day, visiting the 1,097 articles I’ve written on every facet of writing. I have several columns:

In between, I write what’s on my mind. It may be about the craft of writing, trends in the industry, or how my writing business is doing. I like to keep articles short, so you can finish them with your coffee. You’ll rarely find one over 1000 words. Do you like short articles, or long ones? Take my poll, and then read on:

If I didn’t look at the statistics on my blog, I would guess that the most read posts were about the art of writing–how to do it and how to market it. I would guess that the series I wrote on Genre Writing Tips was up at the top of the list because it was wildly popular. Interestingly enough, while these did get lots of comments (see my upcoming post on my most-commented articles), they didn’t get the most visits. In fact, the most popular articles this year are the same categories as last year–a series I call Descriptors–how to describe a variety of stuff you include in your stories.

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Posted in Writing


Subscriber Special: January

05 Jan

saleEvery month, subscribers to Ask a Tech Teacher and the Structured Learning Newsletter get a free/discounted resource to help their tech teaching.

This month:

Any keyboarding curriculum purchase–get the video support for free

To get this special: Just add a comment to your purchase that you are taking advantage of this subscriber special. We’ll do the rest.

Delivery: PDF or print for books; YT for videos

How to Order: Publisher’s website only

Price: varies

Check this link often to see what else has been added as free/discounted


End of Year Tips: Is Your Online Presence Up to Date?

15 Dec

2015This week, I’m providing tips for end-of-year technology maintenance. These are activities that could (or should) be done once a month if you’re active on your computer, but AT LEAST do them yearly.

Like this week.

For most writers I know, life zooms by, filled with research, writing, editing, critique groups, reading, promotions (of our books), people watching (to build characters), and thinking. There are few breaks to update/fix/maintain the tech tools that allow us to pursue our trade.

But, that must happen or they deteriorate and no longer accomplish what we need them to do. Cussing them out does no good. Buying new systems takes a long time and doesn’t fix the problem that the old one wasn’t kept up. If they aren’t taken care of, we are left wondering why our blog isn’t accomplishing what it does for everyone else, why our social media Tweeple don’t generate leads or activity, and why our self-published materials languish. There’s a short list of upkeep items that won’t take long to accomplish. The end of the calendar year is a good time to do these:

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Posted in Writing


11 Tips for Self-Editing Your Manuscript

08 Dec

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

These 11 tips are from Renni Browne and Dave King’s wonderful book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. If you are preparing a story for your writers group, for a beta reader, or want to knock out the most obvious errors before spending money on a professional copy editor, this book should be on your Christmas list. You’ll notice their comments are more non-judgmental than most reviewers. Their focus is to help you consider important elements of your writing–do they deliver the message you want them to in your writing? Feel free to read more of my review, then check back here for the most important tips Browne and King cover. Here are my favorites:

Read the rest of this entry »

No Comments

Posted in Writing