Tales from the Ice(pack)…continued

Where we last left Luke Murphy, he’d been seriously injured playing hockey, did not know if he’d ever return to the sport, and began to explore his alternatives. One of those involved taking up the pen…

Dead Man's HandFrom Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist, Part Two

I really enjoyed the process: coming up with a plot, developing characters and organizing a setting, problem and conclusion. It only lasted a couple of weeks, and once we were done, I kind of missed inventing, creating my own little world and characters.

I remember walking to my bedroom one morning and seeing my roommate’s laptop sitting on the desk, and I thought…why not?

I sat down at the desk, took the characters my girlfriend and I had created, and wrote an extension to the story we had written together.

I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby, a way to pass the time. Even after my eye healed up, and I returned to hockey, I continued to hobby write through the years, honing my craft, making time between work and family obligations.

Then I made a decision to take my interest one step further. I’ve never been one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft.

I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. My first two purchases were “Stein on Writing”, a book written by successful editor Sol Stein, and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King.

I read through these novels and highlighted important answers to my questions. My major breakthrough from Stein’s book was to “Show don’t Tell”. I had to trust my readers. I even wrote that phrase on a sticky note and put it on my computer monitor.

The Self-Editing book helped me learn how to cut the FAT off my manuscript, eliminating unnecessary details, making it more lean and crisp, with a better flow. I learned to cut repetition and remain consistent throughout the novel.

I continually researched the internet, reading up on the industry and process “What is selling?” and “Who is buying?” were my two major questions.

I attended the “Bloody Words” writing conference in Ottawa, Canada, rubbing elbows with other writers, editors, agents and publishers. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.

The first person to read my completed manuscript was my former high school English teacher. With her experience and wisdom, she gave me some very helpful advice. I then hired McCarthy Creative Services to help edit DEAD MAN’S HAND, to make it the best possible novel.

I joined a critique group, teaming up with published authors Nadine Doolittle and Kathy Leveille, and exchanging manuscripts and information. Working with an editor and other authors was very rewarding and not only made my novel better, but made me a better writer.

When I was ready, I researched agents who fit my criteria (successful, worked with my genres, etc.) and sent out query letters. After six months of rejections, I pulled my manuscript back and worked on it again. Then in my next round of proposals, I was offered representation by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.

After months of editing with Jennifer, and more rejections from publishers, my dream was finally realized in April, 2012, when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books (Edmonton, Alberta).

Even today, a year after publishing my first book, I’m stall amazed at the direction my life has taken. Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed I would someday get paid to write books. Sometimes life can be impossible to predict.


For more information on Luke and his work, go to: www.authorlukemurphy.com, or check him out on Facebook www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorLukeMurphy or Twitter www.twitter.com/#!/AuthorLMurphy


Tales from the Ice(pack)

Luke MurphyThis post brings a little something different to splattworks: a guest post by novelist Luke Murphy (right). He tells a good story: that of a writer discovering the craft a little later than many of us (who began producing chapbooks in crayon); and he set his goal, stuck to it, followed the recommended steps…and it paid off. Imajin Books published his novel Dead Man’s Hand in 2012.

 I felt Luke’s story fit well with one of splattwork’s missions—to serve authors and to discuss the trade—as it to serves as kind of a tonic for the many writers, slogging along, who wonder if the work will ever pay off. And it’s also kind of hair-raiser, dealing with one of those low points in life where the clouds look pretty dark. But Luke tells it better than I do; so I need to hand him the wheel.. I’m publishing Luke’s piece in two parts, to give him room to lay it out. Thanks, Luke, for the kind offer to step in and for putting up with me as an editor. 

The good Mr. Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec, with his wife, three daughters, and a pug. He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s worked a range of communications jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

 For more information on Luke and his work, go to: www.authorlukemurphy.com, or check him out on Facebook www.facebook.com/#!/AuthorLukeMurphy or Twitter www.twitter.com/#!/AuthorLMurphy

From Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist, Part I

It can almost be said with certainty that I didn’t follow the path of the average writer. As a child, I never dreamed of writing a best-seller, never aspired to write the next classic novel, I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period. In fact, the only time I ever thought about writing was when my teachers at school made me.

 In 2000, my second year of pro hockey, after a decent training camp with the Louisville Panthers of the American Hockey League, I was sent to play in Oklahoma City. I know, hockey in Oklahoma, who would have thought, right?

 I was having a very good preseason when in the third exhibition game, disaster struck.

 I was forechecking on a Tulsa Oiler defensemen, a seemingly innocent play. As he shot the puck out of his end, the blade of his stick came up from the follow-through and struck me in the left eye. I went down immediately from the contact. I don’t know how long I was out for, but when I came to, I was on all fours, staring down at a massive puddle of blood. There was no pain, but the shock of seeing the blood with my right eye, and unable to see out of my left, drew me close to panic. I was terrified.

 I later found out that the results of the injuries were: a broken nose, slit eyelid, scratched cornea and deeply bruise cheekbone. I went through surgery and was sent home with a patch on my eye.

 I was unable to practice or workout with my team, uncertain of my future, but all I could think about was, “will I ever be able to see out of my left eye again?” The doctors had no way of knowing until the swelling went down and the outside of my eye healed up. I was devastated, my dreams shattered, and I was at one of the lowest point in my life.

 The team sent me to live with a longtime season-ticket holder and friend. So as I was sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself, I decided that I would need an alternate plan. What if my eye never healed properly? I would certainly never play pro hockey again, that’s for sure. I needed to think of what to do next with my life, in case the worst scenario transpired.

 It sucked!! I hated the uncertainty. I hated not knowing if I’d ever see again, or ever play hockey again.

 So what to do? Because I was working with only one eye, it gave me headaches to watch TV or read books for extended periods of time.

 I had just started seeing a girl from back home that summer. She was attending French College in Montreal while I was in Oklahoma, so we communicated by phone and email. My girlfriend knew that I was an avid reader and loved books, so she asked me if I was interested in helping her write a short story for her English class. Since I had nothing else to do and a lot of time on my hands, I agreed.

 I really enjoyed the process: coming up with a plot, developing characters and organizing a setting, problem and conclusion. It only lasted a couple of weeks, and once we were done, I kind of missed inventing, creating my own little world and characters.

 I remember walking to my bedroom one morning and seeing my roommate’s laptop sitting on the desk, and I thought…why not?

To be continued….

Walking Through Fertile Grounds

So. Fertile Ground. Yes.

For those outside Portland, the Fertile Ground Festival presents all-new work over a two-week period, written and produced in Portland. Damn, there a lot of good writers, directors, and actors in this town. In all, 68 pieces were featured in Fertile Ground, and it received national coverage from American Theatre Magazine. You’re going to be hearing a lot about Fertile Ground in years to come. Tricia Pancio Mead especially deserves credit for helping the ball get rolling.

I managed to see Sue Mach’s The Shadow Testament, Nick Zagone’s The Missing Pieces, Ellen Margolis’ Elsewhere, and Andrea Stolowitz’s Antartikos. They were all good, all richly imagined, and all completely different. All deserve further production, you producer types out there.

I probably would have seen other shows–there were at least three or more I would have liked to have caught–but I was in an accelerated rehearsal schedule for my own play, Immaterial Matters, which won CoHo Productions’ New by Northwest New Works Contest, with part of the prize being a staged reading of the play during Fertile Ground. My director, Brenda Hubbard, was sharp as hell, made great decisions, and was ruthlessly funny–which helps when you’re staging a play. And my cast was definitely the A-team: Torrey Cornwell, Jim Davis, Adrienne Flagg, Ritah Parrish, Andrew Shanks, and Ebbe Roe Smith. I list them alphabetically because they were all equal in strength and served the work so selflessly.

And the play, Immaterial Matters. I’ve written a bunch of plays at this point. Around 25 full-lengths, I think. I have to say this one has kind of a weird, golden quality about it. Writing it was a delight; every time I put my pen to paper, the words were there. (And to answer possible questions, yeah, I write first drafts in longhand, then type them up into a word processing program, usually editing as I go.)

The play came a deep, personal place, which I think I can talk about now that the play has been through its paces. In 2007, my mom died after a protracted illness. For some time afterward, not surprisingly, I was deep in a dimly lighted tunnel called grief. For both my parents, actually: my father died in 1994, but now I was facing life as a sort of orphan. Every day was like waking up underwater: everything seemed normal until you took your first breath, and then it was a struggle to the surface, and you’d spend the rest of the day treading water, trying not to sink down.

Finally, I said I’d deal with this death monster by looking directly at it, feelings be damned. So I did: my main character was an orphan who, by happenstance, falls into making post-mortem portraiture in the 1880s (it was a vogue at the time). I’ve been a photographer; so I know how the camera serves as a framing device, somehow placing one outside the picture at the same you’re focusing closely. It seemed like an apt metaphor for way one compartmentalizes one’s feelings; so they can be dealt with piece by piece. (If you try to deal with them altogether, it just crushes you.)

I thought it was a strong, unique play, but I wasn’t prepared by the avalanche of praise it received. I mean, if there were folks who didn’t like it, I wasn’t hearing from them. Entirely possible, but people will usually let you know…whether you want to hear it or not. I didn’t receive the usual “I didn’t understand the part” or “I thought may you should change….“ What I did receive was a lot of knowing looks, smiles, and nods, especially from professionals. If you could bottle and sell that feeling, you’d put smack out of business tomorrow.

The piece has such a weird, nighttime texture. It’s a discovery play that builds slowly, the longer the character keeps making the pictures, with each assignment another step in this weird journey until the weight of grief and inevitability of death overwhelm him, including his own loss of his parents. And, at the same time, it’s funny…audiences were definitely laughing. Which seems as it should be: that life is serious as a heart attack and still stupidly hilarious. Maybe especially when you’re having a heart attack.

Anyway, I ended up as pleased as I could be, and a couple theatres are already considering the piece, with a couple more agreeing to look at it. (And, just to prove it’s not invulnerable, one has shot it down already.) I hope all my plays get produced, of course. (Why else would I write them?) But this one I especially look forward to seeing realized, because I think it’s original and says something without preaching. And that’s not an easy trick. And I just want to go see it–which is why I got into writing plays in the first place.

Not long ago, my mom showed up in a dream–a rare guest appearance. She was her rascally self–complaining and full of problems, but funny and endearing, a way I hadn’t seen for a number of years, due to her illness. And I lay in bed for a long while upon waking, not doing anything, but feeling like some kind of debt had been paid, and some kind of separate peace had been achieved. It felt good and complex. Very Zen. Some kind of gift I’d given myself or received from elsewhere.

This has been Fertile Ground’s third year. I’ve participated in both previous years, and had a hell of a lot of fun. But this one, for me, have definitely been the best.

How the World Sees Us

On my friend Patrick Wohlmut’s blog “i want to be sedated,” he recently wrote that writer’s fans apparently like a rough and tumble, pseudo-bohemian image. To wit:

My friend Steve Patterson should, by all rights, be extraordinarily famous. Not only is he a kick-ass writer, he has the kind of look that screams, “Hard Drinking, World Traveling, Gonzo Journalist.” It’s very appealing.This is extraordinary to me because, of course, I don’t know whatever he’s talking about. In my mind’s eye, I seem to be just another mild-mannered editor by day who tends to his garden and just occasionally writes plays where people jam guns in the mouths of other people and scream. Go figure. But, hey, if it helps sales….


P.S.: It should be noted that Patrick is also a certified kick-ass writer.