Crossroads / Man vs Nature / Survival of the Fittest

How I’m Doing on Survival of the Fittest — 3

crossroadsMy prehistoric fiction is the story of survival, endurance, and tenacity in the face of unconquerable odds. It is a group of trilogies that address seminal times in man’s evolution–when we first arrived (Dawn of Humanity trilogy), when we became dominant (Crossroads trilogy), and when we became really smart (not yet started). It is called Man vs. Nature:

Written in the spirit of Jean Auel and Kathleen Gear, the Man vs. Nature saga follows early humans as they struggle to survive a world where Nature is King and man is prey. What didn’t kill them made them stronger. 

The next in this saga (a hundred thousand years after Born in a Treacherous Time) is Survival of the Fittest, Book 1 in the  Crossroads trilogy:

Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving a fulfilling life in her African homeland in search of the future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands following the escape path laid out a decade before by her father as a final desperate move. 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 her enemy doesn’t want her People’s land. He wants to destroy her. 

The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man populated most of Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man, a smarter version of himself, one destined to obliterate those who came before.

This is a Hero’s Journey. Early man is the Hero and survival — or extinction — is the journey. My hero–as befits a thriller–is bigger-than-life and regularly does the impossible. Which is good because the future of mankind is at stake.

With a planned publication of May 2019 (Book 2, October 2019), here’s how I’m doing.

  • I just finished wordsmithing. I enjoy this part of editing, finding parts where I repeat the same word, evaluating what I’m really trying to say and if I can provide new information rather than repeat the old. Which I always can. It is a slow process of perfecting tiny portions–a few sentences or paragraphs. This sort of editing works well for me and I’m pretty happy with the outcome.
  • To had and not to had. That’s a good question. When is ‘had’ a good idea and when does it suck the energy from a story? In my case, I had 582 ‘hads’. It took a long time to chip the extraneous ones away.
  • By the time you read this, I’ll be started on the full-book final edit. 
  • I continue to work on the book blurbs. I hate hyperbole but when writing these, hyperbole is my friend. Sigh.
  • Because covers can take so long, I took time out to gather my thinking about the cover for Survival of the Fittest and then put my order in with Damonza. That was more difficult than it should have been.
  • I am trying to come up with a tagline for my book. That too is more difficult than it should be. Here’s what I’ve come up with and I have a question for all of you:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across two continents that could end in death or a new home.

Question: The time of this story is before we realized continents existed. Does that matter when writing my tagline?

Another question: Taglines seem optional on book covers. What do you think? Do you use them?

  • Here’s a map of the (Hero’s) journey in the Crossroads trilogy. The characters come together from disparate parts of the globe and end up finally in what will be Gran Dolina, Spain.

man 's journey out of africa

  • I think I have a title for the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga of which Born in a Treacherous Time is Book 1: Dawn of Humanity, to reflect Lucy (the main character) and her kind being the first of man’s species. More on that later.

Last month, I asked y’all whether ‘collection’ or ‘Universe’ best-described this wide-ranging saga of early man. While many liked ‘universe’, a few suggested ‘saga’. When I researched that sort of writing, I agreed with you. Plus, it sounds right. So ‘saga’ it is:

The Man vs. Nature Saga.

I so appreciate all of you who provided thoughtful opinions. It helped me arrive at a decision.

BTW, here’s a picture of my workspace, with annotations:


Click to be notified when Crossroads is available.

More on Survival of the Fittest

How I’m Doing on Survival of the Fittest — 2

How I’m Doing on Crossroads–I

Series or Not a Series–How do You know?

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 Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in 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, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

64 thoughts on “How I’m Doing on Survival of the Fittest — 3

  1. Pingback: How I’m Doing on Survival of the Fittest — 4 | WordDreams...

  2. You’re almost finished…how exciting. I think you’re really sucked in now and the characters will have their hooks in you for quite some time! Lucky us 🙂 I do like a good tagline, they can draw you in, and I wouldn’t worry too much about the technicalities (such as whether we knew continents existed at the time) because you’re creating a hook that is a current summary of the story itself.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! You are really steaming ahead, Jacqui! That is great. Taglines are worth keeping, it gives the reading an idea of the story. A saga is what I’d call your series, it is one heck of a journey for humankind. I am looking forward to reading this book 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Wow! I’m very impressed by your speed, Jacqui! Already in the final editing stages, that’s awesome!
    And I do think you can use ‘continents’ even if they weren’t aware of it at the time, your readers are and what else would you use in that case? Land?
    And I think taglines are great and always a good hook. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Wow,

    I thought I had a big idea project. Compared to you, I’m writing a simple story. Best of luck to you. I cant imagine how big your brain must be to keep track of all the post-it-notes. I love big thinking projects. Good for you!!!!


    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have a feeling you might be called out on the “continent” issue. Can you say “lands” instead? Also, I only see taglines on works of non-fiction or memoir. I don’t know that I’ve seen them on fiction … if it’s a series, you’d have the name of the whole series and then the name of the book, right? Is it necessary to add a tagline to that? I think it would make the cover look busy. Maybe I’m not understanding…

    You’re so inspiring! I’m signing up for the book notification!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I swear I saw them on lots of fiction but now, every book I check has none. Yikes! You may be right, Kate. I’m going to dig into that a bit more. I will have the book title and the series title–and it does sound a bit busy. I figured my cover folks would know how to handle that! Hmm…


  7. Jacqui,

    Remind me again, what do you teach? I marvel at your ability to take such a subject like prehistoric history to spin such a fabulous adventuress action-packed tale. I’m like, “WOW, what an imagination!” My hat is off to you…wait I’m not wearing a hat. Okay…*rise to feet*, I applaud you, my friend. Bravo on your latest accomplishments to reaching your next phase toward the publication of your newest book! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. To think this all started with one story, one book. I’m so impressed with your focus on this series.

    To try to answer a few of your questions: You have to use language and markers that readers can relate to. It doesn’t matter that prehistoric hominids had no idea of continents. (Think how confused Columbus was, and that was only a few hundred years ago.) They traveled huge distances, so crossing a “continent” allows us to understand how vast that journey was without you writing a convoluted description. They didn’t speak English either, and if they had any language, it’s likely long lost. But please write in English – I read it better than other languages.

    Too many “hads.” LOL. Me too – I’m forever trying to de-formalize my writing and make it more casual. Not sloppy, just conversational, as I think that’s what readers enjoy. If they want formal, there are always textbooks.

    I like your tagline very much but suggest changing the final line to read: …”that could end in a new home – or death.” It’s more dramatic and points up the danger of their situation. I like taglines because they intrigue readers to open a book. A title gives only a tiny hint but a tagline shows a bit of the story.

    Can’t wait to see the cover of Survival of the Fittest!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Writing this trilogy has made me rethink the one-book approach to Lucy’s story. It doesn’t really seem over, does it? When I’m done with Crossroads, I really must revisit that.

      I like that small change in the tagline. It does sound more dramatic.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So excited for your next book, Jacqui! I have heard that taglines are important these days in attracting random searchers, so go for it. “Continents” is fine – it makes the work seem epic and far-reaching. It will give the reader a feel for the scope. May is so close! Happy Writing!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Jacqui – sounds like you’ve some good ideas here … I like Susan’s and your idea about Continents … good luck – but you’re progressing really well. I too would love x number of screens!! Cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Done correctly I appreciate tag lines, especially when they suggest an element of surprise. The best stories dominate my thoughts, detail my day, force me to explore new, unexpected areas of possibility. Trying to imagine not learning about continents in school… And I find a marvelous new world! MHO ❤

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s what I call when I peer in through a smaller lens, like binos instead of full vision. I grab a few sentences, a paragraph at the most, and see where it went wrong. For me, it’s amazingly effective. When I then edit the entire book (as I’m starting now), I often wonder who wrote those spectacular phrases!


  12. You’re going well, Jacqui. I think taglines are a great idea. They give an overview in just a few words. Charli Mills would suggest 9, I think. I’m not sure about ‘two continents’ but thought maybe you could leave those few words out and it would still be fine.
    Love your workspace!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I just clicked over. The Middle East area my people walked over was radically different than it is now (for example, the Dead Sea wasn’t dead) but if you have a geology background, it would be fascinating. I read many of John McPhee’s books about walking across America.

      OK–talk more later. I have to check that link.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Loved reading this Jacqui! Re the one tag line – I wondered whether changing the last part to a question ..Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across two continents. Will it be death or a new home?

    Yikes your workspace is …. awesome! Keep on truckin’!

    Liked by 3 people

What do you think? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.