It is my pleasure to feature writer Jacqui Murray as she launches her newest book, The Quest for Home, Book 2 in the Crossroads series, part of her Man vs. Nature Saga.
I’ve long been a fan of Murray’s as I love the way she builds worlds and inhabits them with fully realized people who lived in an historical period where they were outmatched in every physical way except one: their astonishing brain power. They are our very most ancient ancestors, and I relish her descriptions of life in this challenging era.
The following summary will give you an idea of the stakes facing these primitive people who want what we all want: Safety from enemies, shelter from the elements, food and water to sustain them, and a future for their children. But as we all know, these basic needs are neither easy to procure nor guaranteed to persist.
Driven from her home. Stalked by enemies. Now her closest ally may be a traitor.
Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving
behind her African homeland, leading her People on a grueling journey through
unknown and perilous lands. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger,
tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that her
most dangerous enemy isn’t the one she expected. It may be one she trusts with
The story is set 850,000 years ago, a time in prehistory when man
populated Eurasia. He was a violent species, fully capable of addressing
the many hardships that threatened his survival except for one: future man,
the one destined to obliterate any who came before.
Based on a true story, this is the unforgettable saga of hardship and
determination, conflict and passion as early man makes his way across
Eurasia, fleeing those who would kill him. He must be bigger-than-life,
prepared time and again to do the impossible because nothing less than
the future of mankind is at stake.
Shari speaking here: I’m hooked, absolutely hooked by this summary. This is my kind of story, and I bet you’re also eager to read it. When you think about it, we are here because of the success of these primitive people.
Jacqui and I had a chance to talk about her newest book. Gracious as always, she answered my questions with enthusiasm and knowledge. I love talking to someone who’s passionate about their craft and knows what they’re talking about.
Me: I’m always curious about the skills of primitive people.
Could primitive man build rafts as suggested in this story?
Jacqui: Yes, absolutely. They had the brainpower, and the plants and tools required were available at the time but because they were made of wood and vines—-materials that don’t preserve over time—no artifacts remain to prove this. Anthropologists speculate this would have been a basic raft made from bamboo and vine. This hypothesis was tested by building rafts using only prehistoric techniques (as Xhosa would have) and then replicating crossings such as the Straits of Gibraltar, through the islands in Indonesia, and even the passage from Indonesia to Australia.
Me: It must have been both terrifying and exhilarating to set off across an unknown sea with only the stars at night to guide them, and waves as big as mountains threatening them at times. Makes me grateful for airplanes with their cramped seats.
Was there really a giant upright primate like Giganto (Zvi’s friend)?
Jacqui: There was! He’s called Gigantopithecus blacki. Extinct now, he was native to Southeast Asia, China, and Indonesia where Seeker and Zvi lived originally.
Me: I just looked up Gigantopithecus blacki on Wikipedia. He was monstrous and fierce looking, not a creature to antagonize. I plan to get a new dog soon – that’s about my size.
What do you mean by strong and weak side?
Jacqui: Based on artifacts from 850,000 years ago (or longer), paleoscientists speculate that early man had a preference for right-handedness. That would make their right hand stronger than the left (though they didn’t identify right and left at that time). Because of this, my characters call their right the strong side and left the weak side.
Me: That makes perfect sense. They had the brain capacity to differentiate between the two sides of their bodies, understanding where their greater strength lay. The concepts were there but not the language to accurately express them, yet they got their point across. Really fascinating information.
And here, dear friends, I treat you to an excerpt from Chapter 1 of The Quest for Home.
Northern shore of what we now call the Mediterranean Sea
Pain came first, pulsing through her body like cactus spines. When she moved her head, it exploded. Flat on her back and lying as still as possible, Xhosa blindly clawed for her neck sack with the healing plants. Her shoulder screamed and she froze, gasping.
How can anything hurt that much?
She cracked one eye, slowly. The bright sun filled the sky, almost straight over her head.
And how did I sleep so long?
Fractured memories hit her—the raging storm, death, and helplessness, unconnected pieces that made no sense. Overshadowing it was a visceral sense of tragedy that made her shake so violently she hugged her chest despite the searing pain. After it passed, she pushed up on her arms and shook her head to shed the twigs and grit that clung to her long hair. Fire burned through her shoulders, up her neck and down her arms, but less than before. She ignored it.
A shadow blocked Sun’s glare replaced by dark worried eyes that relaxed when hers caught his.
“Nightshade.” Relief washed over her and she tried to smile. Somehow, with him here, everything would work out.
Her Lead Warrior leaned forward. Dripping water pooled at her side, smelling of salt, rotten vegetation, mud, and blood.
“You are alright, Leader Xhosa,” he motioned, hands erratic. Her People communicated with a rich collection of grunts, sounds, gestures, facial expressions, and arm movements, all augmented with whistles, hoots, howls, and chirps.
“Yes,” but her answer came out low and scratchy, the beat inside her chest noisy as it tried to burst through her skin. Tears filled her eyes, not from pain but happiness that Nightshade was here, exactly where she needed him. His face, the one that brought fear to those who might attack the People and devastation to those who did, projected fear.
She cocked her head and motioned, “You?”
Deep bruises marred swaths of Nightshade’s handsome physique, as though he had been pummeled by rocks. An angry gash pulsed at the top of his leg. His strong upper arm wept from a fresh wound, its raw redness extending up his stout neck, over his stubbled cheek, and into his thick hair. Cuts and tears shredded his hands.
“I am fine,” and he fell silent. Why would he say more? He protected the People, not whined about injuries.
When she fumbled again for her neck sack, he reached in and handed her the plant she needed, a root tipped with white bulbs. She chewed as Nightshade scanned the surroundings, never pausing anywhere long, always coming back to her.
The sun shone brightly in a cloudless sky. Sweltering heat hammered down, sucking up the last of the rain that had collected in puddles on the shore. Xhosa’s protective animal skin was torn into shreds but what bothered her was she couldn’t remember how she got here.
“Nightshade, what happened?”
Her memories were a blur—terrified screams and flashes of people flying through the air, some drowning, others clinging desperately to bits of wood.
Nightshade motioned, slowly, “The storm—it hit us with a fury, the rain as heavy and fierce as a waterfall.”
A memory surfaced. Hawk, the powerful leader of the Hawk People, one arm clutching someone as the other clawed at the wet sand, dragging himself up the beach.
He was alive!
Now you’re begging for the rest of the story. You know what to do next. Enjoy!
Book and author information:
Title and author: The Quest for Home by Jacqui Murray
Series: Book 2 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
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 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 NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, In the Footsteps of Giants, Winter 2020, the final chapter in the Crossroads Trilogy.
Social Media contacts:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/
All images courtesy Jacqui Murray