Non-fiction writer Jacqui Murray

Jacqui Murray

Meet techno non-fiction writer, Jacqui Murray, born in Berkley California to Irish-German parents. After receiving a BA in Economics, another in Russian and an MBA, she spent twenty years in a variety of industries while raising two children and teaching evening classes at community colleges. Now, she lives with her husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors. She writes how-books, five blogs on everything from the Naval Academy to tech to science, as well as a column for the Examiner on tech tips. She’s one busy lady…

Tell us about your current book?

I have written a how-to book for high schoolers on getting into the Naval Academy. When my daughter wanted a book on how to get into USNA, all she could find were books that told her how hard it was, how selective they were, how very few could achieve it. My daughter brushed them off, but I wondered how many kids would be discouraged by that approach and decided to write a book explaining how to achieve the goal, not why kids couldn’t. I stressed how teens can solve the problems that stood in their way rather than why they couldn’t, how they could get where they wanted to go rather than why they couldn’t get there. That worked for my daughter and I had no doubt it would work for others. From what I hear from readers, it’s true.

My eight tech workbooks for K-8 are the same. When I went back to teaching a decade ago, I could find no workbooks for teaching technology. There were how-tos, but not geared for younger students. So I decided to write them. I geared the books for parents with nominal computer skills, homeschoolers and lab specialists. It outlines the method I use in my classes that gets kids from the most basics of computer skills in kindergarten to Photoshop by fifth grade. I’m not surprised that the method works, and is now being used in school districts all over the country.

Why that genre?

If we are to belief that old saw, Write what you know, that is my answer. I love computers, love shining a bright light on them for kids, so here I am. Writing books about them. In fiction, my genre is techno-thrillers. What a surprise, hunh? I love the sizzle of technology.

What gives you the motivation to write this particular genre?

I think the more kids understand technology and realize it isn’t complicated, pretty intuitive actually, the more they’ll embrace it throughout their education. Like reading, it makes learning so much easier than the lack of it.

Have you tried to write in another field?

You mean like chick lit? No, just not me. The people who write chick lit, or literary fiction are probably called to it, as I am to techno-thrillers.

Is your book a stand-alone or part of a series?

My tech books are designed as a guideline for learning from Kindergarten through fifth grade. You start with the first and work through to the end. You can start in the middle, but it’s not as effective. Skills are missed or become more difficult because the student doesn’t have the background.

What are you working on now?

Right now, I’m working on a fiction novel, To Hunt a Sub. PhD candidate and single mom Kali Delamagente has something in common with Albert Einstein: They both regret their inventions. His changed the world and hers is on a train-wreck course to destroy it. It starts when her brainchild, a supercomputer named Otto, accidentally uncovers a foolproof way to steal military secrets. Kali’s brilliant friend, Cat, persuades her to enter Otto in a contest, the same one where Cat will unveil her undetectable DNA-based computer virus. It’s no surprise both inventions catch the attention of America’s enemies. Their goal: hijack America’s Trident subs, the most advanced military platforms in the world.

Enter Zeke Rowe, ex-SEAL-turned-anthropology professor. Though he doesn’t believe Otto can find the Tridents’ covert hiding places or that Cat’s virus can hijack them, he soon learns how wrong he is. When Kali’s son is kidnapped, the threat becomes all too real. Now she faces a moral dilemma: Is one life worth that of a nation? Because no answer is acceptable, Kali, Cat and Zeke band together to regain control of America’s most clandestine secrets.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?

I have an excerpt available on Scribd.com Please—log it and check it out. I’ve had over 3600 reads since I posted it a few months ago.

What is the very first novel, or partial you have written?
My first fiction novel was about a band of early men (I have an excerpt on Scribd), circa two million years ago. I have great respect for man’s roots and wanted to share early man’s life style, mostly how he survived those feral times. To keep it from being a narrative treatise, I couched the biography in the traits of fiction—characterization, plot line, story arc, etc. I’ve grown from there.
What came first, fiction or non-fiction?
Non-fiction came first. Building a Midshipman was from a passion to share my daughter’s experience in her successful USNA application process. My technology workbooks were necessity—I couldn’t find any textbooks for my tech classes! No file drawer of unfinished stories. I have several finished novels which I will edit at some point in the future, but that’s it.

Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone? (If agented please give names, if not please tell us a little about your journey into SP.

No agent, but some definite interest in the book. I have a short list of people who have expressed an interest, so I will send it to them first when I’m finished. I hope they enjoy it!

Who is your publisher, or who do you SP with?

My non-fiction books are published by Structured Learning.

Where can you be contacted?
Anyone interested in reaching me, the best way is through my publisher, Structured Learning or email me at AskATechTeacher@structuredlearning.net My Twitter handle is twitter@askatechteacher. My writing tips blog is WordDreams. I also write a column for Examiner.com. I invite everyone to read that, add comments, follow me!

And where can we find your books?
  • My six technology workbooks are available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • My two computer lab toolkits are available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • Building a Midshipman is available on Amazon.com and the publisher’s website. The ebooks are available on Scribd.com. 
  • If you’re interested in To Hunt a Cruiser, leave a comment on my WordDreams blog and I’ll let you know when it’s out.
  • My Building a Midshipman site is USNA or Bust. 
  • My Computer Lab Toolkit and Technology Workbooks site is Ask a Tech Teacher

Lastly, can you leave us with a summary of two of your books?

There are lots of how-to books on getting in the Naval Academy, but they’re quite dry and impersonal. Mine is from the perspective of a woman who did it (my daughter!) and how she accomplished such a lofty goal. It’s very down-to earth and should give confidence to any teen, male or female, considering a military academy as their college of choice. Here’s the blurb I have on Amazon:


You don’t have to be a miracle-worker to the 10% of applicants accepted to a military academy, but you do need a plan. For the thousands of students who apply every year–and slog through the numbing concatenation of decisions preceding a nomination–there is no greater discouragement than the likely event that they will fail. This, though, is the Board’s peek into an applicant’s moral fiber and an important ingredient to the go/no go decision. In the words of James Stockdale, USNA ’46 and Medal of Honor Winner: “The test of character is not ‘hanging in there’ when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel, but performance of duty and persistence of example when you know that no light is coming.” This is the true story of Maggie Schmidt, an All-American kid who dreamt of attending the Naval Academy when her research into the typical Midshipman uncovered a profile alarmingly like herself. This book describes her background and academic interests, her focus, as well as her struggle to put together a winning admissions package. Along the way, you gain insight into the moral fiber that grounds everything she does and the decisions she must make that some consider impossible for an adolescent, but are achievable for thousands of like-minded teens. This workbook walks you through the long process, provides check lists of everything required, decision making matrices, goal-setting exercises to determine if USNA is a good fit for you, and a mix of motivation and academic advice to balance a decision that rightfully might be the biggest one most teens have ever made. See the publisher’s website at structuredlearning.net for more details.

The all-in-one K-8 toolkit for the lab specialist, classroom teacher and homeschooler, with a years-worth of simple-to-follow projects. Integrate technology into language arts, geography, history, problem solving, research skills, and science lesson plans and units of inquiry using teacher resources that meet NETS-S national guidelines and many state standards. The fifty-five projects are categorized by subject, program (software), and skill (grade) level. Each project includes standards met in three areas (higher-order thinking, technology-specific, and NETS-S), software required, time involved, suggested experience level, subject area supported, tech jargon, step-by-step lessons, extensions for deeper exploration, troubleshooting tips and project examples including reproducibles. Tech programs used are KidPix, all MS productivity software, Google Earth, typing software and online sites, email, Web 2.0 tools (blogs, wikis, internet start pages, social bookmarking and photo storage), Photoshop and Celestia. Also included is an Appendix of over 200 age-appropriate child-friendly websites. Skills taught include collaboration, communication, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making, creativity, digital citizenship, information fluency, presentation, and technology concepts. In short, it’s everything you’d need to successfully integrate technology into the twenty-first century classroom. See the publisher’s website at structuredlearning.net for free downloads and more details.
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