Monday, September 18, 2017

Seven Writing Links - Volume 176

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Yes!  Fall has arrived. The days are getting shorter, the weather is turning cooler, and as is usual for this time of year, I'm psyched for writing. Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and that passion always seems to carry over into my writing.  For example, two days ago, I had a eureka moment, and suddenly understood how the rest of my story will unfold. I've always had a bullet list of events that needed to occur before the story ended, but up until my revelation, I didn't know HOW or WHEN they would happen. Now I know the sequence of events that will lead all the way up to the All-is-Lost moment. 

I still have plenty of words to write, but the end of the journey is within sight. Damn, I love this time of year! 

On a side note, I came across this passage the other day and, after a little tweaking, thought it might be appropriate for writers. 

Dear Lord, 
So far today I've done all right. I haven't complained about my book sales or lost my temper because of a review. I haven't been jealous of other writers, turned grumpy on Twitter, acted nasty to my editor, or said bad things about Amazon. I'm really happy about that so far. But in a few minutes I'm going to be getting out of bed and then I'm going to need a lot of help. Thank you.

Enjoy the links and have a great week! 

ChemistKen 



Is It Ever Okay to Lose Money on Advertising?

Writing to the Beat: Translating Story Beats to Any Genre

6 Things I've Learned as a Professional Editor

Five Tips On Making Jargon And Tech Work For Your Writing, Rather Than Against It

Are Your Book’s Ads Earning or Losing You Money?

6 Ways to Make Readers Fall in Love With Your Characters

Tracking Your Banged Buck: Make Sure Your PR Pays Off Books


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Insecure Writer and the Month of September


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

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

The fact that it’s September. 

Why would that make me insecure? After all, it’s my second favorite month of the year (after October), and the arrival of autumn usually fires me up to do my best writing. Unfortunately, it’s also the month where I can no longer successfully lie to myself that I’ll be hitting my end of year goals. 

In other words, I’m feeling rather conflicted this week, so let’s move on to this month’s IWSG question:

Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing?

Yes. Pretty much all the time, although probably not in the way you think.

I’m surprised I started writing in the first place, especially since I used to hate writing. 

I’m surprised I’ve kept at it all these years despite my many fits and starts. 

I’m surprised my writing skills are soooooo much better than when I first began this journey. 

I’m surprised there is soooooo much more I still have to learn. 

But best of all, I’m surprised when I look back at an earlier chapter and decide I'm happy with what I wrote. That's real progress, folks!

ChemistKen








Tuesday, August 15, 2017

You Don't Know What You Don't Know

I apologize once again for the lack of activity on this blog. It’s not that I’m losing interest or running out of things to say, but I’ve hit a sticking point in my story (the same one I mentioned a couple of weeks ago) and I’m loathe to spend time here until that issue is resolved. However, the fact that I’m posting today is a good sign. I think (fingers crossed) I’ve decided how the scene should resolve itself and how the MC is going to get there. I may turn out to be wrong—it won’t be the first time—but I’m staying hopeful.

We all know how important it is to have other eyes on our work, especially those of us who are still working on our first book. We often have no idea how bad our writing is at the beginning—what our weaknesses are, what’s missing in our stories, cringe-worthy dialogue, etc. Even after we have a few stories under our belt, we still need that vital feedback because we’re often blind to our own problems.

Basically, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Last week, at one of my critique group meetings, the nominal head of the group spoke to one of our newer members about their latest submission. She complimented the writer for already being at a place on her writing journey where her words were in reasonable shape. There were still a few problems, but as the leader pointed out, new writers often have so many problems with their writing that it’s hard for the critiquers to know what to say or where to begin, and this writer was definitely past that stage.

All well and good, but as the leader was saying all this, she kept glancing back at me, as if expecting me to confirm this or something. Finally, after about the fourth look, I finally asked her why she kept looking at me, and after she hemmed and hawed for a while without actually answering, I finally realized she had been talking about me.

I’ll admit I was stunned. I’ve been getting good reviews on my submissions over the past twelve months and this very same leader had publically announced (more than once) that my writing had grown immensely over the past year or so, and how much she enjoyed reading my submissions. So all is good now, but apparently, back when I joined the group three years ago, my writing was pretty bad. Bad as in “we don’t have enough time to tell you everything that’s wrong, but here’s a partial list of where you might want to start.”

I went back and looked up some of my earliest submissions to the group, and yeah, there were some glaring problems that would have been hard to critique. Nothing technically wrong, the grammar and punctuation were fine and the sentences made sense, but my submissions were full of sentences that didn’t quite fit together. There was no glue to bind them together into a coherent whole; no mortar to smooth out the bumps and potholes. In other words, it was kind of hard to figure out where my story was going. But somehow, the advice my crit partners gave me at the time pointed me in the right direction and as a result, I’m a much better writer today.

So the next time I’m asked to look over a submission that turns out to be a mess, I’ll think back to when I first began many years ago and remember that we were all newbies once. When we didn’t know what we didn’t know.


ChemistKen

P.S. Actually, if I had known what I didn’t know back then, I probably would have given up writing right then and there. Ignorance does have its advantages.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Insecure Writer and August's Pet Peeve


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

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

I'm stuck on a particularly vexing scene and the wall next to my desk has dents in it from all the head banging I've been doing trying to figure my way past that scene. Oh well, it’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last.  I’ll figure it out eventually and move on, so let's jump to the IWSG question of the month.

What are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

My biggest pet peeve involves reading.  Over the past six months, I’ve noticed more and more books within certain genres are beginning to sound remarkably similar.  Take paranormal fantasies, for example.  Almost every one I see these days starts out in exactly the same way. The main characters all sound the same. The eventual love interest always sounds the same. The worlds sound the same. The writer's voice sounds the same.  It's like the authors are following the same template.  I know every genre has certain conventions a writer must follow, but come on people, at least try to be a little original.

Space operas are beginning to show some of the same problems, although at least they have the advantage of having five or six standard ways for them to begin.  The ex-prisoner/retired spacer/old miner who  just wants to retire in peace, but who immediately gets pulled into something that will decide the fate of the galaxy.  Or the bounty hunter/space scavenger/salvage reclamation person who discovers an ancient alien artifact that will decide the fate of the galaxy. There's nothing wrong with these themes, but it's gotten to the point where you could swap first chapters between these books and not notice the difference.

Have any of you noticed the same trends?

ChemistKen

P.S. For those of you who write paranormal fantasy and space opera, I'm obviously not talking about you. :)






Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wonder Woman and Superpower Inflation



I saw the Wonder Woman movie the first week it came out and immediately decided to write this post. However, between life getting in the way and the fact that I’m a procrastinator, I’m only now getting around to it. 

First off, let me say I liked the movie. It was fun and had plenty of action, and, unlike the Superman vs. Batman movie, mostly made sense. But something did bother me about the movie, something that’s been bothering me about superhero movies for a while now. 


Superpower inflation. 

Now I understand the writers need to keep upping the ante in order to keep people flocking to see these kinds of movies, and it’s certainly easier to make the good guys (and of course the bad guys) more powerful than it is to come up with more compelling stories. But for a guy who grew up reading superhero comics back in the day, I find this trend disturbing. 

I don’t want to date myself, but back when I read comics, superheroes had to walk three miles to get to work, uphill—both ways. Back then, Wonder Woman wasn’t a demigod. She wasn’t picking up tanks and throwing them. Being an Amazonian, she was stronger than most people, was good at fighting, and had a strong sense of right and wrong. But other than her magic lasso and invisible plane, that was about it. Now my daughter tells me Wonder Woman has been rebooted so many times that now she’s supposedly almost as strong as Superman. Sigh… Back when I read comics she was basically a female version of Captain America. 

Of course, Captain America has been getting stronger and more invincible with every movie too, so I guess it’s only fair. In the beginning, Cap was great at absorbing punches. In Captain America: Civil War, the characters were surviving 20 to 30 foot falls onto hard metal platforms over and over again with apparently nothing more than a few bruises. Everyone else on the planet would have been dead. 

And it’s not just that everyone’s superpowers are getting bigger, it’s that they’re gaining powers they’re not even supposed to have. In Deadpool, for example, during the final climatic battle, every character started out with different powers, but once the battle began everyone seemed to be pretty much the same, super-strong and super-resistant to damage, even if that had nothing to do with their original abilities. After a while, all the characters became interchangeable. And that’s the real concern. That all the superheroes will eventually morph into the same SUPER superhero.

I could go on, but I’m probably in the minority here. Maybe superpower inflation is necessary to keep the superhero movies coming. And more superhero movies is (probably) a good thing. And to be honest, this inflation has been going on for a long time. Heck, in the first Superman comics (long before I read them), he couldn’t even fly—just jump long distances. I suppose when they finally gave him his flying abilities, the Superman aficionados of the time probably railed against superpower inflation then too.

That’s my two cents. 

What do you think?

ChemistKen


Friday, July 14, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 174

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Seems like this is the summer of missing blog posts. Another Wednesday slipped by before I remembered I had a post due. I've given up on the concept of feeling guilty about these missing posts. As long as I'm making progress on the writing front, I'm still happy. 

At least I had a bit of an excuse this week. As luck would have it, I had submissions for both my critique groups due this week, so I concentrated on getting those done. My biggest obstacle came from one of the submissions, where I couldn't decide which of the two stunts my protagonist was trying was going to succeed. After spending an embarrassingly long time pondering this question, I finally realized the correct answer should be "neither of them." Never make it easy for your protagonist. 

Actually, the tight deadlines wound up helping me out. I didn't have time to finish one of the chapters before it was due, so I fixed up as much as I could and just stopped writing, figuring my critique partners could see the last few pages of the chapter next month. Turns out the arbitrary cutoff point I'd chosen was actually the perfect spot to end the chapter. 

As much as I hate them, deadlines are good for me. 

Anyway, enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 


How to Tell if You’ve Received a Genuine Publishing Offer

Why Your Protagonist Should Have a Past “Wound”

Raise a Question, Earn the Backstory

The Basics of Advertising for Indie Authors

Mystery Cliches: Are They Boring Your Readers?
I found this one entertaining. 


7 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Book Promotion

7 Keys to Creating Bloodcurdling Monsters




Friday, July 7, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 173

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Why am I posting this week's writing links late on a Friday night? Shouldn't I be able to find something a little more exciting to do? Well, the answer is that I've been on vacation all week (although that didn't stop me from participating in the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop  on Wednesday), so today was all about recovering from that vacation. And sitting down and sending these links out is a great way to relax and feel productive. 

I hope everyone enjoyed the 4th of July. The weather was great in Michigan, and I only got a little sunburned. Actually made some progress on the writing front too. 

Anyway, enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 


Writing an action story: 8 tips for good pacing

How Indie Presses and Authors Can Collaborate on Marketing Campaigns

CREATESPACE VS KDP PRINT

What Do You Want Readers to Wonder About?

Define Your Target Audience: The Intermediate Stages (Branding/Discoverability)
As usual Kristine Kathryn Rusch has great information.

Rejected By BookBub? Look In The Mirror And Change Your Marketing Ways

What you NEED to know for successful Amazon Ads!




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Lessons Learned


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

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

Worrying that my vacation this week isn't going to be long enough. So this month I'll settle for answering the question of the month.

What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

That's a hard one for me. I've learned so much over the years, there are too many to choose from. Here's my short list: 

1.  One of my first lessons had to do with showing and telling. I had no clue what "telling" was back at the beginning, and it took me years of practice before I could recognize it with regularity. Yay! Then, after a couple of years, I learned it was possible to show too much and eased back on it a little. 

2.  I used to think mortals like me could never dream up enough words to fill a 300 page book. Now I've learned the importance of cutting back and tightening my writing so my stories don't balloon into magnum opuses. 

3.  I used to be so obsessed with the rules of writing that I put off finding a critique partner for years because I was positive they'd be horrified with all the rules I broke, many of them without realizing it. These days, I understand the rules are more like guidelines. Heck, sometimes I break the rules just to see how my critique partners react. 

So when it comes down to it, I guess my most valuable lesson learned was the importance of having critique partners. With their guidance, my writing has grown tremendously over the years.  If you don't have a critique partner yet, get one. Reading books on craft and attending conferences help, but nowhere near as much as having another set of eyes on your work. You don't know what you don't know.   

If I had to do it all over again, I'd find a critique partner as soon as possible.

How about you? Are any of you still looking for critique partners?



ChemistKen




Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Knowing When To Add World-Building Details

Other than putting words down on paper, the task I spend the most time on while writing is deciding upon the order in which those words appear. The order of sentences, the order of paragraphs, the order of scenes. Should I reveal a nugget of information now or wait until later? Argggg! I tweak constantly, rearranging everything over and over until I feel I’ve hit the sweet spot. My hardest task, though, is deciding when and where I should drop in world-building info.

The commonly accepted rule is that authors shouldn’t reveal world-building facts until the reader needs to know them. Otherwise we run the risk of slowing the pace of the story and possibly boring the reader. Like most rules in writing, however, I’ve found this rule to be more of a guideline, because it’s possible to take this concept too far.

For one thing, common sense suggests writers shouldn’t always wait until the last minute to deliver world-building info. If the reader keeps learning necessary facts right before those facts become important to the story, he’ll spot the pattern and grow annoyed. It’s often better to drop in these bits of information well in advance of when they’re needed.

I can also imagine instances in which a writer will deliberately want plenty of separation between the delivery of info and when it’s actually needed. Consider mystery stories, for example. The writer needs to drop in facts/clues about the surrounding world so the reader has a legitimate chance of figuring out the mystery before the big reveal, but the writer usually wants to place them early in the story so those facts aren't foremost in the reader’s mind as the climax approaches. Otherwise it might be too easy for the reader to solve out the mystery.

Or how about when the author needs to foreshadow a future event? In many cases, it’s better to foreshadow well in advance, in order to give the reader time to build up anxiety over what might happen.

Heck, sometimes world-building info isn’t always needed for the story. Sometimes the author adds this kind of information solely for the purpose of the reader’s entertainment. This often occurs in fantasy or science fiction, where dropping in little details about how things work in this world are part of the draw. If the author followed the aforementioned rule, he’d never be allowed to add this info.

Of course, just because you can drop in bits of info early doesn’t mean you’re relieved of the responsibility of coming up with a valid reason for tossing it in there. No matter how entertaining you might find the religious system in your newly created world, the reader will not be pleased if you dump it on him for no reason. As a writer, it’s your job to dream up situations that justify the inclusion of this information. The reader may not need to know the information yet, but they don't need to know that.

ChemistKen


Friday, June 23, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 172

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It's been a while since I've missed so many Wednesday posts in a row. I apologize to those of you who've stopped by looking for something new. Unfortunately, too many things are going on at home or at work. When June arrived, I thought I'd have tons of time what with the kids being done with school (meaning they no longer needed my help on homework) and the weather turning nice, but free time has yet to surface. This is the busiest I've been all year. So again, my apologies. 

I guarantee that I will have a post next Wednesday. This is not bravado, or an attempt at holding myself accountable. The post that was scheduled for this past Wednesday is 80% done, so it won't take much to finish it by next week. 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 



What’s in Your Tagline?
Not your story's tagline, but your website's. Make sure the people who stop by your website know what you're all about. 


Creating Effective Transitions

Keep It Fresh: 10 Ways To Show Your Character’s Emotions

How to Handle Conflicting Critiques

Junowrimo: Act II, Part Two

JUNOWRIMO: Midpoint

The Blueprint for Writing a Novel from the First Five Pages to the End




Friday, June 16, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 171

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Very little writing news to report this week.  My wife kept me busy on a building project every night this week, so there was no time for my usual Wednesday post.  Heck, even this post is rather late.

I plan to enjoy this weekend.

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 


Social Media Content: Feeding the Beast

Junowrimo: Key Elements of Act II, Part 1

Negative Reviews (and Why I Don’t Read Them)

Junowrimo Day 10: Are you stuck? Do you have a PLAN?

The Art of the Chapter

What’s in Your Tagline?

How to Immediately Improve Your Query Letter’s Effectiveness



Friday, June 9, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 170

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/

Last night I attended one of my monthly crit group sessions and received feedback on my latest submission. There were a few minor suggestions, easily fixed, but one member of the group commented that he wanted more tension in the scene. 

I sighed to myself. Seems as though every time I write a sequel scene, I'm told I need to add more tension. 

A sequel scene is the scene that comes after a big dramatic (possibly full of action) scene. It's a time for the character to reflect upon what she's just been through and a chance for the reader to catch his/her breath before the next big scene. It's supposed to be a quieter scene, but apparently I make them too quiet. Either that or I've trained my group to expect something big to happen in every chapter. 

So tonight I'll be kicking back with some wine and figuring out a way to put my protagonist into even more jeopardy. After all, the reader is always right, aren't they? 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 


How Writing Short Fiction Can Enhance Your Novel (and Your Career)

Building a Mailing List through Reader Magnets

SHOULD You Create Your Own Book Cover?

Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem

5 Critical Mistakes of Author Collaborations And How to Avoid Them

Outlining a Murder Mystery

The Legal Side of Writing for Anthologies



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Insecure Writer and Quitting


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

What makes me an Insecure Writer this month?

The usual suspects. Nothing worth mentioning.

So this month I'll settle for answering the question of the month.

Did you ever say "I quit?" If so, what happened to make you come back to writing?

The simple answer is that I’ve never said “I quit.”  It’s not as if I haven’t had  reason to say it.  I’m an excruciatingly slow writer.  Writing doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does for most of you.  Every word can be a struggle.  I estimate that I’m only half way through my story, and during the years I’ve spent writing it, some of you have managed to put out trilogies. (Damn that Alex)  Heck, even one of my former online crit members has managed to publish a book.

https://www.amazon.com/Resistance-Divided-Elements-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01M6AXXKA
Resistance


So yes, I’ve thought about quitting.  But for some reason, no matter how badly I feel about my writing, no matter how down I am, no matter how many doubts I have, those feelings never last more than a day.  All I have to do is go to bed and when I wake up the next morning, the doubts are gone.   On some levels, my ability to ignore reality is almost frightening.  But it keeps me going.

I have no idea if anyone will care for my simplistic writing style, or my story, or my characters.  But to be honest, it doesn't really matter.  I’m going to finish this story no matter what, and when I do, I’ll move on to the next one. I like the story, and that’s all that matters. Hopefully a few people will like it enough to buy it.


I’ll never quit being a writer. It's just not an option for me.

ChemistKen

P.S.  Thank goodness I have a day job!


Friday, June 2, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 169

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/

I don't know about you, but I'm anxiously awaiting the middle of June. Because by the time we hit the third week of June, two major milestones will have passed. 

1. All my flowers will have been planted and mulched. I'm into gardening because of the bright colors, not from any sort of intrinsically good feeling about being one with nature. As far as I'm concerned, once everything is planted, the flowers are on their own. Sure, I'll fertilize them occasionally, if I remember, but that's about it. Once we hit the middle of June, I ain't touching another shovel, rake, or clod of dirt until fall arrives. 

2. School will have ended. Thank God! I spend more time helping my kids with their homework, or yelling at them for not having done their homework, than I do working on my own story, or planting flowers, or conversing with my wife. I expect my writing progress to leap forward starting in two weeks. 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 


Business Musings: Brand Identity (Branding/Discoverability)

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Next Step?

Villains & Villainesses: Architects of Story

How to Write a Sizzling, Scintillating Synopsis

Why Writing Rules (Usually) Don’t Work, But Writing Guidelines Do

When tweeters attack: why do readers send authors their bad reviews?

How Not to Start Your Novel: 6 First Page No-Nos



Friday, May 26, 2017

Seven Writing Links -- Volume 168

https://pixabay.com/en/users/josemanuelbotana-958941/

Not much happened this week. My wife's surgery went well, as did my crit group meeting. The only thing that could make this week any better would be if my son actually did his homework without us having to remind him every thirty minutes. Sigh. 

Today is the start of Memorial Day weekend here in the States, which marks the start of flower planting season here in Michigan. I have a dozen flats of annuals sitting in the backyard, all ready for a binge of planting. We'll see if my back is too sore to write later on in the day. 

I enjoyed reading your guesses as to what happened to my wife's wrist last week, but I wonder why many of them  included me in the scenarios. I wasn't even there at the time. No, really, I swear. 

Enjoy the links and have a great weekend! 

ChemistKen 

P.S.  If you missed Wednesday's post about Jacqui Murray's new book, Twenty-Four Days, be sure to check it out



How to Take Advantage of Your 4 Most Important Characters

Author Platform Building: How to Create a Valuable Email List For Your Book

How To Copyright A Book: A Comprehensive Guide

Why Identifying Your Reading Audience Age Is Crucial

Producing Your Books in Audio Part Two: Auditions

Self-Publishing Resources: For Fun and Profit

5 Qs Authors Don’t Ask but Should When an Agent Offers Rep



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

"Twenty Four Days" by Jacqui Murray


Today I'm happy to be part of the book tour for Twenty-Four Days, the new book by Jacqui Murray. If you're into high-tech thrillers, you'll want to check it out.

I asked Jacqui if the tech in this book was really possible and this was her response:

Absolutely. It takes real laws of physics—science in general—and extrapolates intelligently on those to what could be if there was time and money. It follows the model of what is commonly referred to as Star Trek Science. But in the case of Twenty-four Days science, you don’t have to wait centuries. It’ll probably be around in a matter of decades.

So check out the book info and the included excerpt below.

Good luck, Jacqui! 


Twenty-four Days:

A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don't know what it is, where it is, or who's involved.

Excerpt from the book:

Monday, August 7th
HMNB Devonport England
Until last month, Eyad Obeid considered himself a devout Muslim. He prayed five times a day, proclaimed God’s glory in every conversation, and performed the required ablutions when confronted with uncleanliness. When his brother was executed by Israeli gunman five years ago, Obeid swore retribution. No nobler purpose could he imagine for his worthless life than dying for Allah.
But instead of a suicide vest and the promise of seventy-two virgins, the village imam enrolled him in college to learn nuclear physics, thermodynamics, chemistry, and math so complex its sole application was theoretical. Much to Obeid’s surprise, he thrived on the cerebral smorgasbord. In fact, with little effort, he attained all the skills required by the Imam.
By the time he earned his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics, he had learned two lessons. First, he was much smarter than most people around him, and second, the western world was not what he had been told.
Now, just weeks after graduation, Eyad Obeid approached the dingy Devonport pub on the frigid southern shore of England and wondered how to explain to the man responsible for giving Eyad Obeid this amazing future that he would fulfill his obligation, but then, wanted out.
He squared his shoulders and entered the pub.
His stomach lurched. Rather than his mentor Salah Mahmud al-Zahrawi, he found the Kenyan and his three henchmen. He had first met these thugs in San Diego California where he learned to run a nuclear submarine under the friendly tutelage of British submariners. When Obeid finished his studies, the Kenyan slaughtered the Brits. No warning. No discussion, just slash, slice and everyone died.
As did Obeid’s belief in the purity of Allah.
The nuclear physicist jammed his hands into his pockets, hunched his shoulders, and approached the table. The Kenyan had never introduced himself and Eyad Obeid lacked the courage to ask.
“I was expecting Salah al-Zahrawi,” Obeid offered as he slipped into the booth.
The Kenyan stared past Obeid, eyes as desolate as the Iranian desert, thick sloping shoulders still, ebony skin glistening under the fluorescent lights. Danger radiated from him like the hum of a power plant. He had three new fight scars since their last encounter, like angry welts but otherwise, he looked rested, clearly losing no sleep over the slaughter of innocents.
“You have one more job before you are released.” In a quiet, toneless voice, the man without a soul explained the new plan, finishing with, “If you fail, you die.”
Obeid was stunned. His gut said Run! He risked his future—his life—staying a moment longer with this crazed zealot, but Obeid did little more than croak a strangled, “If I succeed, I will also die!” His University friends called it a Sophie’s Choice.
The Kenyan shrugged. “But less painfully.”
Obeid twitched as heat washed his face. As he sought an appropriate response, the waitress arrived with tea. She poured a cup for each of them, chattering to no one in particular about how she had forgotten her blarmy slicker because her boyfriend kept her up the whole bloody night, di’n he, and she was frightfully knackered. No one responded.
“Shall I tell you the specials on offer?”
The Kenyan slowly ratcheted his head toward her. “Go.”
The waitress backed away, almost knocking over another server and his steaming tray of eggs, bacon, black pudding, and baked beans.  “Well, aren’t we in a bloody mood,” and she left.
The Kenyan did not seem to notice, his flat dead eyes back on Obeid. The physicist squirmed. He was but one man. His only hope was to quietly warn the authorities.  He folded his hands into his lap to hide their shaking.
Insha Allah, I will help. What do you require?”
“Do you remember the training you received from the Parishers?”
The British submariners you butchered? Obeid nodded.
“You must ensure the sailors perform their duties after we hijack the sub.”
With no further explanation, the Kenyan tossed a fistful of notes onto the table and left. As Obeid hurried after him, he surreptitiously thumbed a message into his phone and pushed send.
There was no signal.
The Kenyan parked in the crew lot outside Her Majesty’s Devonport Plymouth Naval Base. Obeid changed into a uniform and emerged from the car carrying a loaded gun in a prayer rug. Maa shaa Allah.
The storm broke and quickly turned the parking lot slick and shiny. Obeid shivered despite the heavy pea coat with the warm fur-lined collar. How did the British stand the weather? When this ended, he would never again leave the sparkling sun and cloudless skies of his beloved Iran.
“Eyad!” It was Tariq Khosrov, with two other friends from Obeid’s graduate program, all with PhDs in nuclear physics. Tariq was one of the smartest boys Obeid had ever met and the most na├»ve. “Are we going to steal a nuclear submarine?”
Obeid hissed, “Quiet!” and the Kenyan nudged him toward the base’s thick metal gates. They had been designed to stop an AK-47 or a firebomb, even an RPG, but not the weapon Salah al-Zahrawi would use. Faithful Muslims who worked for naval personnel had replaced pictures of the dead San Diego Parishers with Obeid and the rest of the hijackers. By the time the Royal Navy realized something was wrong, HMS Triumph would be gone and missing.
“Next!”
The man in front of Obeid passed his ID to the bored security. He checked the man’s face, his computer screen, and waved him through.
It was Obeid’s turn.  “ID, please.”
Obeid’s chest tightened as the stern-looking sentry, blonde hair trimmed close to his scalp, collar turned up against the wind, fingers like thick sausages on powerful hands, turned a flint-eyed glare to Obeid. The nuclear physicist froze and the guard’s boredom became suspicion. He read the name stitched on the right breast of Obeid’s uniform. “Haim is it?”
He looked Obeid up and down, as though to determine if the name matched the slight figure in front of him with wire-rimmed glasses and the thatch of black hair dripping rain down his forehead. True, he couldn’t tell Obeid’s stomach lacked the six-pack of muscles the real Haim had been so proud of, but he could see Obeid’s slender hands and they were those of a scientist, not a sailor. Surely, the guard would say something.
Obeid fumbled, almost dropping the ID before shoving it forward.
“Anything to declare?” The guard’s gaze flicked to the prayer rug.
Sweat broke out under Obeid’s arms. Should he tell the guard there was an AK-47 in his prayer rug or would he shoot before listening to Obeid’s explanation? No, better to deal with the problem onboard. Besides, the Kenyans claimed they were simply leveraging demands against Britain backed by the threat posed by the sub’s weapons. They would never use them.
He bit his lip hard, tasting blood, and forced anger into his voice. “You suspect me because I am Muslim? Do you want to examine my prayer rug?” His voice dripped with righteous indignation as he had practiced and he extended the tightly-bound bundle, taking care to keep the ends turned away from the soldier. “Maybe I am carrying an A… K.” He purposely stumbled over the name.
The sentry flushed and stepped back as though burned.
“Now I didn’t mean that mate, did I? O’ course you’re fine,” and waved Obeid through.
Across the yard, limned against the grey sky, towered the domed shape of the HMS Triumph, its deck slick with rain, sail glistening in the early morning light. The warheads it carried could reach the vast majority of the planet but the bustling sailors, some in oil-stained uniforms, others nattily dressed in white with jaunty officer caps, greeted each other, oblivious to the danger approaching them in the uniform of shipmates.
What had he done?
“Keep going,” the scar-faced Kenyan hissed between clenched teeth.
Obeid balled his fists to stop their shaking and forced his steps to be slow and measured as if in no rush to start what would be a three-month deployment.
When the group reached the Triumph, they were greeted by a cherub-faced seaman. “You the Parisher blokes?” He stuck his hand out. “Name’s McEwen. We’re the Second crew. First came down with food poisoning.” He chuckled, eyes crinkling with merriment, brows like gray steel wool. “Brill, you think? Who wants to play hide and seek with a Diesel?”
McEwen poked the Kenyan in jovial familiarity while Obeid combed through his training for what a ‘diesel’ might be.
“Enough yakking. Get sorted, blokes. We leave in an hour.”



What customers are saying about this series:
J Murray’s long anticipated thriller, To Hunt a Sub, is a satisfying read from a fresh voice in the genre, and well worth the wait. The time devoted to research paid off, providing a much-appreciated authenticity to the sciency aspects of the plot. The author also departs from the formulaic pacing and heroics of contemporary commercialized thrillers. Instead, the moderately paced narrative is a seduction, rather than a sledgehammer. The author takes time rendering relatable characters with imaginatively cool names like Zeke Rowe, and Kalian Delamagente. The scenes are vividly depicted, and the plot not only contains exquisitely treacherous twists and turns, but incorporates the fascinating study of early hominids, and one ancestral female in particular who becomes an essential character. The narrative might have benefited from language with a crisper, sharper edge, but that is purely my personal taste and preference and takes nothing away from the overall satisfaction of this novel.


One thing I enjoyed about this read is the technical reality Murray created for both the scientific and military aspects of the book. I completely believed the naval and investigatory hierarchy and protocols, as well as the operation inside the sub. I was fascinated by her explanation of Otto's capabilities, the security efforts Kali employs to protect her data, and how she used Otto's data to help Rowe.


The research and technical details she included in this book had me in complete awe. A cybervirus is crippling submarines--and as subs sunk to the bottom of the ocean, I found myself having a hard time breathing. It's up to Zeke and Kali to save the entire country using their brains. If you love thrillers, this is definitely one you can't miss!



Book information:
Title and author: Twenty-four Days by J. Murray
Genre: Thriller, military thriller
Available at: Kindle USKindle UKKindle Canada



Author bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipmanhttps://i0.wp.com/ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?zoom=1.5&t=askatectea-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0978780086, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and  Twenty-four DaysShe is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  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.
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Quote from author:
What sets this series apart from other thrillers is the edgy science used to build the drama, the creative thinking that unravels the deadly plot, and the Naval battle that relies on not just fire power but problem solving to outwit the enemy.
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