I’m thrilled to have Jacqui Murray here today to talk about her latest release, “Natural Selection,” from her amazing prehistorical series Dawn of Humanity! Here is my review: LINK
What I learned from Lucy
When I wrote my first novel, To Hunt a Sub, I learned a lot about life from my characters (which I shared here). That novel is set in the present day while my newest novel, Natural Selection, the third book in my Dawn of Humanity trilogy, is set 1.8 million years ago. These characters have little culture, no art, no religion or spirituality, no personal adornments, no houses, can’t use fire, don’t wear clothes, and their most advanced technology is stone tools. What could I possibly learn from their primitive lives?
Turns out, a lot. Intelligence isn’t the same as common sense and often, the latter is more important than the former. Here’s what I learned (you’ll have to buy the book to see how these skills are accomplished. Rest assured, it will be worth it):
- How to catch fish without a rod or net. Your hands, used properly, do well.
- Seconds and minutes aren’t important. It’s all about daylight. In fact, I no longer wear a watch.
- You can tell time without a watch. Lots of survivalists and nature lovers use this unplugged approach.
- Watch my backtrail. Two reasons: 1) see if anyone is following, and 2) see what things look like for the return journey. Lots of hikers do this.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Listen, smell, notice, repeat. For example, if the insects fall silent, there’s probably danger. If a covey of birds explode into the sky, something threatened them that might also threaten you.
- Stick your finger in scat (poop). If it’s warm, the animal who made that deposit is close!
- Nature has many natural remedies for illness, wounds, and injuries.
- Licking someone’s face is comforting. Wolves greet pack members this way. It feels good.
- Wolves are gentle. They aggressively defend their pack, are well-equipped to hunt food, and are welcoming. I’m not saying you should pet a wolf. I’m saying don’t shoot it on sight just because someone told you wolves are dangerous.
- You can eat anything if you’re hungry enough. A reader gave one of the Crossroads books one star out of five because she got sick of the disgusting slugs and worms the people ate. Well, this was a time before the bounty of farming, before the dominance of man’s weapons over animals. These people were hunters and gatherers, living off the land, thankful for anything edible. If you watch Bear Grylls’ Man vs. Wild, you’ll see he does the same.
- You can run down a herd. This as much as spears turned man into a hunter of meat.
- You don’t have to see to get around. Like you, I thought I did, and then one of my characters lost 90% of his sight. Since I have Glaucoma, which ends in blindness for a certain percent of victims, my character’s solutions brought me comfort.
- A carry sack is best made from animal stomachs. And who doesn’t need a sack to carry stuff in while hiking?
- Don’t kill something just because you’re afraid it will kill you.
- Never approach prey with horns or antlers from the front.
What do you learn from your characters?
In this conclusion to Lucy’s journey, she and her tribe leave their good home to rescue former-tribemembers captured by the enemy. Lucy’s tribe includes a mix of species–a Canis, a Homotherium, and different iterations of early man. In this book, more join and some die, but that is the nature of prehistoric life, where survival depends on a combination of our developing intellect and our inexhaustible will to live. Each species brings unique skills to this task. Based on true events.
Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.
A perfect book for fans of Jean Auel and the Gears!
One Pack Ends, Another Begins
The Canis’ packmates were all dead, each crumpled in a smeared puddle of blood, Upright killing sticks embedded where they should never be. His body shook, but he remembered his training. The killers’ scent filled the air. If they saw him—heard him—they would come for him, too, and he must survive. He was the last of his pack.
He padded quietly through the bodies, paused at his mate, broken, eyes open, tongue out, pup under her chest, his head crushed. A moan slipped from his muzzle and spread around him. He swallowed what remained in his mouth. Without a pack, silence was his only protection. He knew to be quiet, but today, now, failed.
To his horror, a departing Upright looked back, face covered in Canis blood, meaty shreds dripping from his mouth, the body of a dead pup slung over his shoulder. The Canis sank into the brittle grass and froze. The Upright scanned the massacre, saw the Canis’ lifeless body, thought him dead like the rest of the decimated pack. Satisfied, he turned away and rushed after his departing tribe. The Canis waited until the Upright was out of sight before cautiously rising and backing away from the onslaught, eyes on the vanished predators in case they changed their minds.
He had planned to descend into the gully behind him. Sun’s shadows were already covering it in darkness which would hide him for the night, but he had gauged his position wrong. Suddenly, earth disappeared beneath his huge paws. He tried to scrabble to solid ground, but his weight and size worked against him and he tumbled down the steep slope. The loose gravel made gripping impossible, but he dug his claws in anyway, whining once when his shoulder slammed into a rock, and again when his head bounced off a tree stump. Pain tore through his ear as flesh ripped, dangling in shreds as it slapped the ground. He kept his legs as close as possible to his body and head tucked, thankful this hill ended in a flat field, not a river.
Or a cliff.
When it finally leveled out, he scrambled to his paws, managed to ignore the white-hot spikes shrieking through his head as he spread his legs wide. Blood wafted across his muzzle. He didn’t realize it was his until the tart globs dripped down his face and plopped to the ground beneath his quaking chest. The injured animal odor, raw flesh and fresh blood, drew predators. In a pack, his mate would purge it by licking the wound. She would pronounce him Ragged-ear, the survivor.
Ragged-ear is a strong name. A good one.
He panted, tail sweeping side to side, and his indomitable spirit re-emerged.
But no one else in his pack did.
Except, maybe, the female called White-streak. She often traveled alone, even when told not to. If she was away during the raid, she may have escaped. He would find her. Together, they would start over.
Ragged-ear shook, dislodging the grit and twigs from his now-grungy fur. That done, he sniffed out White-streak’s odor, discovered she had also descended here. His injuries forced him to limp and blood dripping from his tattered ear obstructed his sight. He stumbled trying to leap over a crack and fell into the fissure. Fire shot through his shoulder, exploded up his neck and down his chest. Normally, that jump was easy. He clambered up its crumbling far wall, breaking several of his yellowed claws.
All of that he ignored because it didn’t matter to his goal.
Daylight came and went as he followed White-streak, out of a forest onto dry savannah that was nothing like his homeland.
Why did she go here?
He embraced the tenderness that pulsed throughout his usually-limber body. It kept him angry and that made him vicious. He picked his way across streams stepping carefully on smooth stones, their damp surfaces slippery from the recent heavy rain, ignoring whoever hammered with a sharp rock inside his head. His thinking was fuzzy, but he didn’t slow. Survival was more important than comfort, or rest.
Ragged-ear stopped abruptly, nose up, sniffing. What had alerted him? Chest pounding, breathing shallow, he studied the forest that blocked his path, seeking anything that shouldn’t be there.
But the throbbing in his head made him miss Megantereon.
Ragged-ear padded forward, slowly, toward the first tree, leaving only the lightest of trails, the voice of Mother in his head.
Yes, your fur color matches the dry stalks, but the grass sways when you move. That gives away your location so always pay attention.
His hackles stiffened and he snarled, out of instinct, not because he saw Megantereon. Its shadowy hiding place was too dark for Ragged-ear’s still-fuzzy thinking. The She-cat should have waited for Ragged-ear to come closer, but she was hungry, or eager, or some other reason, and sprang. Her distance gave the Canis time to back pedal, protecting his soft underbelly from her attack. Ragged-ear was expert at escaping, but his stomach spasmed and he lurched to a stop with a yowl of pain. Megantereon’s next leap would land her on Ragged-ear, but to the Canis’ surprise, the She-cat staggered to a stop, and then howled.
While she had been stalking Ragged-ear, a giant Snake had been stalking her. When she prepared her death leap, Snake dropped to her back and began to wrap itself around her chest. With massive coils the size of Megantereon’s leg, trying to squirm away did no good.
Ragged-ear tried to run, but his legs buckled. Megantereon didn’t care because she now fought a rival that always won. The She-cat’s wails grew softer and then silent. Ragged-ear tasted her death as he dragged himself into a hole at the base of an old tree, as far as possible from scavengers who would be drawn to the feast.
He awoke with Sun’s light, tried to stand, but his legs again folded. Ragged-ear remained in the hole, eyes closed, curled around himself to protect his vulnerable stomach, his tail tickling his nose, comforting.
He survived the Upright’s assault because they deemed him dead. He would not allow them to be right.
Sun came and went. Ragged-ear consumed anything he could find, even eggs, offal, and long-dead carcasses his pack normally avoided. His legs improved until he could chase rats, fat round ground birds, and moles, a welcome addition to his diet. Sometimes, he vomited what he ate and swallowed it again. The day came he once again set out after what remained of his pack, his pace more sluggish than prior to the attack, but quick enough for safety.
Ragged-ear picked up the female’s scent again and tracked her to another den. He slept there for the night and repeated his hunt the next day and the next. When he couldn’t find her trace, instinct drove him and memories of the dying howls of his pack, from the adults who trusted their Alpha Ragged-ear to protect them to the whelps who didn’t understand the presence of evil in their bright world.
Everywhere he traveled, when he crossed paths with an Upright, it was their final battle.
Title and author: Natural Selection by Jacqui Murray
Series: Book 3 in the Dawn of Humanity series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Editor: Anneli Purchase
Available print or digital) at:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction saga, Man vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman , the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice, a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics.
Social Media contacts:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/
76 thoughts on “#NewRelease! “Natural Selection” by Jacqui Murray @WordDreams #writing community #readersoftwitter #whattoread”
Hi Denise – what a great interview Jacqui has given us here … definitely an inspiring read – reminding us of where we’ve come from … and all the things we take for granted in our modern world. I do love her books – they are so well written … congratulations – Jacqui – cheers to you both – Hilary
Hi Hilary 🙂 Jacqui always has good information to share with us! Yes, a great reminder not only where we come from, but amazingly entertaining and well written too. Cheers to you. So happy you stopped by to support, Jacqui!
I apologize if this comment appears twice (or thrice). Feel free to delete the duplicates! I do love getting into these stories, about times when living was a much bigger challenge than what we face today.
Thanks Denise – for some reason I can’t ‘like’ … frustrates me – so this comment is for that reason! Cheers H
I’ve had that problem at times too, Hilary. Usually, I can solve it by switching browsers. Annoying but at least it works!
I think that’s why I so enjoy writing these stories–that they remind me of how treacherous our journey has been to bring us to a time when things are basically good.
Congratulations, Jacqui. A most interesting excerpt. I am a big fan of Jean Auel’s books so this book is a must read for me.
It’s written in her spirit, but I can’t claim to be the storyteller she was. What a writer!
Its a fantastic series and book, Karen. I have a feeling you will really enjoy it.
I’ve been planning to read this series for a long time, and this just makes me want to get going on it even sooner. Thanks for hosting Jacqui today, Denise! And here’s wishing you much success with this latest release and continued success with the entire series, Jacqui! 😊
Thanks, Marcia! I didn’t understand how early man could survive the dangers all around him Back Then. The skills I’ve listed here took me a long way to figuring out that answer.
You have some good reading ahead, Marcia 🙂 I’m happy to be spreading Jacqui’s good news.
Congratulations to Jacqui. Those are some outstanding tips and I agree it’s weird when everything goes silent in the woods.
Our civilized ears think it’s a pleasant quiet. It’s not!
They are great tips, Craig. I’m with you when it goes silent in the woods.
Congrats on the new release, Jacqui. I like what you said about common sense being more important than intelligence. One thing that stood out to me was the part about silence. Just last night I began a scene in my WIP where a character sensed impending danger because of the silence. The phrase, “the calm before the storm” has gotten to be a cliché, but there is a load of truth in that statement. And by the way, I’m still in awe of you writing prehistoric fiction.
Thanks for hosting, Denise.
Your character would be wise to prepare for danger. Animals tell us a lot about our surroundings. A new book? Looking forward to hearing more about it.
Common sense seems to be an important gift to people. Yes that sudden silence begs for us to pay attention, Joan! I think we are all in awe of her prehistoric fiction Happy to be a part of the latest.
It’s an impressive book, and I’m glad I got a chance to read it. Amazing job on Murray’s part of incorporating her research smoothly into the plot. Congrats to her on earning a five-star DL Finn review!
I am over the moon, Priscilla. And Denise really captured the story.
I fully agree with you, Priscilla, its an impressive book and series. My part part is how the research is so easily weaved into the story.
I enjoyed Jacqui’s series Dawn of Humanity. I highly recommend and I’d never read prehistoric fiction prior to beginning the series.
During my lifetime, I’ve known a lot of highly intelligent people, yet their life was a mess due to lack of common sense.
Thanks for hosting Jacqui today, Denise. She’s a brilliant writer with a ton of common sense!
Oooh, thank you, Jill. I have many family who would dispute my possession of common sense! I’m kind of the nutty one–the writer!
It is a great series, Jill. Thank you for adding your recommendation! I’ve seen the same rhing in people, being so incredibly smart but lacking in the necessary common sense to apply it for a successful life or career. Thrilled to host and you summed Jacqui up well.
Congratulations to Jacqui. The amount of information in this book is impressive. Thanks for hosting, Denise.
It’s odd to think of learning from characters we writers create, but it comes from the story research. My husband constantly wonders how I know some tidbit of knowledge. Well, I had to dig into it for one of my books!
By tidbit I think you mean obscure. Sometimes surprises folks when that happens.
Happy to be hosting and I agree the information is very impressive, John 🙂
I read what Jacqui learned from Lucy with a great deal of interest. I’m gaining a lot of respect for my very, very, very distant antecedents!
They were people we would be proud to ‘ride the trail with’ (as my Westerns say). They used their growing brains to great purpose.
I loved that insight too and have a renewed repeat for those very distant relatives, Liz!
I love your list of what you learnt from your characters, Jacqui! Awesome. Congratulations on your latest book and wishing you every success.
Denise, thanks for sharing!
Have a wonderful weekend. Hugs 💕🙂
Isn’t it amazing? I feel a lot more confident about getting lost in the woods thanks to Lucy and her tribe. It isn’t as fatal as I’ve always thought it to be.
It was a great list, Harmony! There is a lot to learn from history and prehistorical too. Always happpy to share the good news. Have a wonderful weekend too. Hugs xo
Oh my goodness, what a gripping excerpt! I was holding my breath hoping Ragged Ear would find someone to join with. Another great stop on Jacqui’s tour! Thank you for hosting, Denise, and congratulations to Jacqui!
Wolves (and lots of other intelligent animals) really don’t know the meaning of ‘quit’. I liked Ragged Ear so much, I’m reprising him in my next trilogy. How can that be, you ask? Didn’t 1.7 million years pass? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
I’m intrigued, Jacqui!
That was one of my favorite characters, Jan 🙂 I was rooting too. So happy to be sharing Jacqui’s great book here
What a great list, Jacqui. I especially liked the ones about being kind to our animal brothers and sisters since they aren’t as dangerous as we’ve been told. Respect and acting rationally go a long way. And sorry about that one star. I guess the reader was expecting a tidy version of prehistoric history with Raquel Welch as the main character. 😀 A fun post. Thanks for hosting, Denise.
Hehee. I was tempted to respond, but I know that’s always discouraged. Oh well.
No, Always best to just let it go. I got a one-star from someone who said they “skimmed” the whole book and were confused by the story. Lol Oh well.
I completely agree, Diana, about respect kindness, and rational thinking going a very long way in life. No Racuel Welch in those days…lol. Always one or two that don’t get that. Thrilled to have Jacqui visiting today.
Great stuff, Denise. As you eloquently said in your review, people adjust and do what comes naturally to them wherever they are. I’m sure they thought that eating raw meat and insects was completely normal because, above all, their primary thought was, “What do I need to do to survive?”
Taste wasn’t a factor in food selection back then. Whether it filled the stomach was more important. Thanks for visiting, Pete!
Thanks, Pete 🙂 Survival was so tough and doing anything to obtain it, even their diet was their success. Jacqui knows how to write this so well!
I’m really enjoying this series a lot and hope to review it some day on my site. 🤍🤍 I love Jacqui’s interview! And your review is really good, too, Denise!
Thanks, Kymber! It’s a far cry from what you write, but we both do a lot of world building, don’t we?!
Yes, we sure do! 🙂
It is such a great series, Kymber and Jacqui always has interesting information to share. Thank you!
Wonderful interview Denise and Jacqui! I’m deeply impressed by all the research and detail. Incredible–and inspirational. Bravo!
I am also highly impressed at the amount of research that goes into these stories, Gwen. It us inspirational.
Thank you so much, Gwen. The research is the part I enjoy the most.
Hi Jacqui, Hi Denise, this is a great post. I enjoyed the list of common sense items although I don’t like the idea of having my face licked, I’m not even much of a hugger.
I’m a big fan of common sense too, Robbie 🙂 I tend to avoid face licks too…lol
I’m not into my dog licking my face either, but I try to understand the animal is showing his affection. OK–I’ll tolerate it!
A great post! I believe we do learn a lot from our characters. I certainly have learned from Amanda. Like to ask questions and to question things, even adults. Also to pay attention to my surroundings and to do things even if it can be scary.
You are so right that we can learn a lot from our characters, Darlene! Always good to ask those questions and pay attention to surroundings, even with the scary factor.
That is so true of Amanda. I think those are some of the reasons I enjoy reading the Amanda stories, even as an adult.
Amazing lessons! Your prehistoric series are so informative Jacqui! Congratulations. Wishing you great success.
I have learned so much reading, Balroop 🙂
It’s amazing how clever our ancestors were, innit?
This was such a great interview! Congrats on the new book, Jacqui! Thanks for sharing it with us, Denise!
Yvette M Calleiro 🙂
Definitely good information shared by Jacqui 🙂
Thanks, Yvette. I’m glad you liked it!
That’s a great list, Jacqui!
I didn’t realize you had glaucoma. I’m assuming you’re on drops and trust they continue to do their job. Hugs. That is extremely irritating me that someone gave you a one for writing the facts. Glad that’s a rare occurrence. Write on:)
Denise, Thanks for featuring our friend.
Both of you take special care.
It is a great list, Sandra 🙂 Yes, boo to that one star for facts. Thrilled to have our friend here today! Xo
Yeah, glaucoma is not nice, but I do the drops and everything else my doctor tells me to. Crossing my fingers.
We think that we’re so smart today compared to our ancestors, but how much knowledge has been lost over the centuries. I have glaucoma too, and also require nightly eye drops. Sheesh! Did the reader who gave you the one star expect your characters to find a McDonald’s?
Didn’t know you had glaucoma, Mark. Annoying, innit? And you’re still pretty young! Oh well.
I was diagnosed seven years ago . . . so far with treatment it’s been stable.
Mine, too. Question: Do you know of any forums where you can chat with other Glaucoma folks? I found one on FB that’s pretty good, but that’s it. It helps to share the misery!
Their knowledge to survive is amazing, Mark. Maybe they did expect a McDonald’s back then…lol
Great to see Jacqui still on tour with her book here. Congrats again to Jacqui <3
Yes. She’s had a successful tour, Debby!