Author’s Roundtable: Shannon ‘Guernsey’ Coulter a.k.a. S. Moo

How did your family and friends feel when they heard you were writing?

HAPPY! Since I was a little kid, my nickname has been “Motor Mouth.” They were happy I’d be quiet for a bit and put some of the thoughts in my head down on paper instead of constantly into their ears. ūüėČ
How long have you been writing? 

I have always loved to write and studied as a Communications major at Vanderbilt University where I learned all different ways to use words (from public speaking to poetry to lyricism.) 

When I left school, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to “be” so I¬†became a Communications Consultant, which brought even more forms of writing into my life. My favorite form was creating wellness campaigns that helped adults “look inside” and find aha moments to change their life. When I met my stepkids in 2007, I decided to leave Corporate America to use my skills with campaigns to bring wellness to children through stories and activities. I love it.
S Moo FamilyIs there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?


Do not hold back because of fear of rejection. Know that rejection will come, but so will acceptance! There is no way on this planet to make everyone happy, but because there are so many people out there, others will love your writing just as much as you do!

And please, do not judge yourself by the commercial success of your writing. If you are brave enough to put your art in the hands of others, you ARE a success!

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

I self-published because my books were meant as a gateway to my company. The books offer positive lessons for kids, and the company has fun activities to reinforce these lessons.

Whether self-publishing or looking for a publisher, know things can go very slowly. Don’t get down on yourself or your work. Persistence and patience ‚Äď and faith ‚Äď are key.
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

Absolutely. We all have so many thoughts in our heads. Writing is a wonderful way to learn more about who you are and the way your mind works. Whether writing in a personal journal or with the purpose of sharing your work with others, getting your thoughts out on paper is hugely therapeutic.

Has writing made you a better person?
100 percent. When I was a Communications Consultant, I wrote to help others better their health and finances. As a children’s book author, I write to teach kids to respect themselves, others and their planet (and hopefully make them laugh!). I truly hope I am helping others with my work.¬†

PF_Facebook01_R00As a person, writing has helped me get through many tough times. I often find when I’m down, if I put my feelings on paper and read them back to myself, I am able to more clearly understand what I’m feeling and more quickly “get over it.” As I read what I’ve written, it puts things into better perspective, and often times, when I delete what I’ve written, the negative emotions go into the trash with the written words!

Was there ever a point in your life where you felt like giving up because nobody understood you? How did you overcome this time in your life?

Many, many times. I aim to take accountability for misunderstandings I encounter and learn more about the others so I can present my thoughts in a different manner. If I do this in an empathetic and kind way and there is still a misunderstanding, I can move forward, knowing I put in my best effort with a kind heart. Life is full of different types of people, and as frustrating as it is, we simply can’t please everyone. As long as we are the best person we can be, we can look back at our experiences ‚Äď even those that don’t turn out that great ‚Äď with respect for ourselves. ¬†

What are your goals as a writer?

To help others find and focus more on happiness. Life is hard. There is NO question. So if in my children’s books, my company and my blogs, I can help people smile and recognize the good things they do have despite life’s obstacles, then I have succeeded.

Any new challenges you’ve had to face?

Creating my own company and writing books have been huge growth experiences for me. When I was younger, I tied how I felt about myself as a person to how “perfect” I did at tasks (be it being the best on my soccer team to getting the best performance review from a superior). If things were any less than perfect, I was devastated with whom I was as a person and treated myself as a failure. It was a black and white existence. The growth of my company and the sales of my books have been slow. If I tied how I felt about myself to these facts, I would be shattered. I have learned to look at the things I have done ‚Äď having the guts to start a company and write books ‚Äď as successes and be proud of myself for persevering.

S Moo Author PageFocusing on small successes and letting go of “perfectionism” has changed my life for the better in all aspects ‚Äď from being a business owner to a parent to a spouse to a friend.

Check out Shannon’s¬†author bio on Amazon, her children’s book series on Amazon, her blog with simple play ideas and fun for families, and her author website to help people laugh at themselves and give themselves a break.

Author’s Roundtable: Diane Strong

How long have you been writing?

I was being recognized for my writing as far back as third grade when a local author came and gave a writing class. I continued to write through college but stopped in my early twenties. I didn’t begin writing again until my mother died two years ago.¬†Her death relit the writing flame, and it has yet to go out.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

No. It has always been something I enjoyed, and I remember my teachers telling me I should be a writer but it never occurred to me that I would actually do it.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

Out and Back: a novel about the loss of my mother. It is a mostly true story.

Newspaper Bundle: A collection of columns I wrote for my local newspaper.

The Running Suspense Series, which is actually a collection and not a series. The stories are stand-alone, short suspense stories.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

My novel, Out and Back, is about a woman who loses her mother. It causes her tight little life to come apart at the seams. It is a very emotional and funny story.

Falcon Point New Cover 1400 X 1850My suspense collection stories all feature a runner as the main character. In each story, the runner finds him or herself in a situation that you can only imagine in your worst nightmare.  They are fun and most of them have unexpected endings, which are my favorite.

Newspaper Bundle: The columns are about crazy things that have happened to me while running or biking in the remote area where I live. Usually they involve an animal and quite frequently I am rescuing that animal.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

Most of my books come to me while I am running.¬†I run by an abandoned old house and think, “What if?” Or I see cliff and wonder how I could end up at the bottom of it half dead. I know it’s sick but it works.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Out and Back is. It is taken directly from my life as a mother, daughter, sister and wife.  The kids in that book do the same annoying things that my kids do. The lead character is basically me but with a little more edginess.

I have not personally experienced the things that happen to my Running Suspense characters…thank GOD!

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Oh geez. Yes. But I think the most important thing to remember is to do what you love and not take the rest too seriously. Live your life, leave the earth better than you find it, and give back. Find writers who inspire you and learn from them.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published, and what are some of the benefits of having your work professionally edited?

I think a professional editor is worth their weight in gold. Unfortunately, I can only afford bronze. My editors have not been professional until recently. I wish I would have waited for the real deal on my first works. I have gone back and put new edited versions up now.

The promotion part of writing has been the most difficult. I just want to write, but I can’t.¬† If I don’t go out and constantly update my knowledge to stay on top of the industry I fall behind. If no one knows about your books, they won’t sell.¬†Someday I want to pay someone to do it for me.¬†I hope that day is soon.

outandback ne foot jpegHow did you find time to write your books?

Well, I am a busy mother of two who also homeschools her kids. I really don’t have a lot of time. I know writers who set aside three hours a day to write, but I can’t.¬†When a story comes to me I squeeze in writing time where ever I can.¬†Sometimes I give the kids a snow day and will write for eight hours straight.¬†Sometimes my story will sit finished but unpolished for weeks before I can get around to it. During the summer I get a lot done.¬†This summer I am going to write my second novel. I’m very excited about it.

Oh sure. Writing is therapeutic any way you look at it. Whether you are doing it to examine your life or live a fantasy life, it takes the edge off of reality.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Running is my therapy. I find writing more like disappearing from reality for long periods of time.¬†When I return I feel good about what I’ve accomplished but wonder where in the world my kids are ūüôā

Writing Out and Back was absolutely therapeutic. It helped me get through the grief of losing my mother.

Has writing made you a better person?

Um, no. A more dynamic person? Yes.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love reading. I prefer non-fiction, though. I love true stories like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

They are very important for a couple of reasons. I initially wanted reviews because I knew a total stranger would be honest about what they thought. I can hand my stories to friends a family all day but I can’t trust their opinion because they love me and don’t want to hurt my feelings. I have gone back and revised by books in response to the reviewer’s comments. The reviewer’s make me a better writer.

The more reviews you have, the more reliable the rating is. If a reader sees I have five stars but only four ratings, they are leery. If I have fifty ratings and 4.5 stars, they can trust it.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Of course! Once you start getting a lot reviews you are bound to get a bad one. I’ve learned from the bad reviews that were helpful, but not all of them are. I have a one-star review that only said, “I think that this very very very very very very very short book, was to very very very very very very very very very very very very short.” In response I would say, “1. Is English your first language?¬†and 2. That is why it is called a short story.” So this person is giving me one star because they thought they were reading a full-length book and didn’t take the time to read the description?¬†That isn’t helpful to me.

It makes me feel sad to think they could affect my rating because they are lazy or just being rude. But it’s okay, the truth comes out in the averages. I am forever optimistic.

profile photoAbout Diane Strong

Diane Strong lives in Kentucky with her husband and their two children. She received a liberal arts degree at Itasca Community College, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Equine Studies from Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana and a Master’s degree in Veterinary Science from the University of Kentucky.

She writes a small column for the Georgetown News Graphic and homeschools her children. In her spare time she competes in road races, triathlons and adventure races. She is the founder of the Georgetown Run Club and Intellectual Society. She loves what she does.

Author’s Roundtable: Dakota Douglas

How long have you been writing?

Since I was about eight-years-old. So that is a very, very long time. My favourite author then was Enid Blyton. I used to write stories on a toy typewriter inspired by Blyton’s famous five, but with my own characters and storylines. It was fun. And my dad used to illustrate them, put them in a binder and put my name on the front.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes. As a kid the local library was my favourite place to be. Books inspired me to daydream about doing all sorts of adventurous things, like going into space or digging up mummies, but I always came back to writing. It led me into a career as a journalist. Since retiring I have returned to my childhood passion. When you write, you can step into the shoes of any character you like, say things in your dialogue that you wouldn’t think of in real life and get up to all sorts of cool stuff.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

Two children’s stories: ANTics and WOOF.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

ANTics is about three young ants who get up to heart-pounding adventures as they flee from their colony’s fiercest enemy, an evil spider, who has vowed to turn them into ant soup and wipe out their nest. They must use their combined wits to escape his clutches and warn their nest mates. The characters all have names that describe their personality and end in ant.

WOOF features two stories about a shy schoolboy who is brought out of his shell after befriending an unusual stray dog.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

ANTics was based on a dream after watching a group of ants carry a potato crisp back to their nest. The crisp was huge but they worked as a team to achieve their goal. As I lay in bed thinking about the dream, I expanded the storyline and came up with the idea for their ant-ending names.

I’m not sure about WOOF. It was probably inspired by a dream, too, or a day dream. I do a lot of that.

WOOF BOOK COVERAre the books based on personal experiences?

In a way, yes. As a kid I was shy and still am. One of my characters in ANTics is timid and shy and Jeremy in WOOF is shy, so I suppose I connect with that.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Have fun. When writing your first draft, just write. Don’t get bogged down with checking spelling and punctuation. Let it flow. Enjoy the writing experience. Once the story is down, put it away for a few days, then come back to it with fresh eyes and edit and tweak to whip the story into the best shape you can for publication.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

I have done my own editing because as a former journalist I am used to editing my work. However, I will probably get future work professionally edited. If you read your story through 60 times, on the 61st time, you will still spot mistakes. You really need fresh eyes and trained eyes to pick up mistakes and give you constructive feedback.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

I wrote the first draft of ANTics about 10 years ago. At the time I started to develop repetitive strain injury (RSI), which gave me pain in my hands, wrists and forearms. It’s from doing repetitive tasks. As a newspaper reporter, my fingers were forever clutched in a ball over a keypad or writing shorthand all day long. I found it too painful to type during the day for my living and again at night and weekends for my hobby. So I gave up my writing dream. Since retiring at the end of 2011, the pains have eased so I’ve went back to ANTics, edited it and put it out into the big wide world. I’ve had some great reviews, which have thrilled me and spurred me on to write more.

How did you find time to write your books?

I am retired so I should have all the time in the world. But I haven’t. I play golf, which takes up a big chunk of my week. Also I’ve joined social media to promote my work and find it difficult to manage. It can eat your time, if you allow it. You hear about how self-published authors have sold millions of copies of their books. It sounds so easy. The reality is they are the minority. To promote yourself in the self-published world, you need a lot of skills. It’s not just about putting the words “The End” at the finale of your story. The really hard work is just beginning unless you pay someone to do it all for you. You have to format your book for publication, get a cover created, upload it onto sites, get a website, start a blog and try to attract readers. I’ve learned a lot but still have a long way to go.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

If you are successful, it will pay the bills. If you don’t sell a lot, hopefully it will be a hobby that you enjoy. Writing stretches you creatively. To complete a book, a blog or a short story, gives me a sense of achievement in the same way as completing a great round of golf.

ANTics bookcoverSeveral of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

It can be an outlet for your emotions. If you are angry with someone but don’t want to start an argument with them, or are sad about something, you can channel that emotion into your writing through one of your characters.

Once you start to write, it’s amazing what comes out, almost subconsciously, as if there is someone else inside your head telling you what to say. It can give you insights into yourself, your relationships, your feelings and sometimes evoke memories that you thought were lost.

Can you also talk a little about how writing your book was therapeutic? What do you mean?

I used to be a scaredy cat when it came to bugs. I did a lot of research for ANTics and I have a better understanding of the bug world. Also I love research. It widens your knowledge. Though I must admit talking about creepy crawlies isn’t exactly a riveting dinner table topic.

Has writing made you a better person?

Ask me that after I have several more books under my belt. What it has made me is heavier. I spend more time at the computer than being outside getting exercise.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I like to read nonstop. I will read a bus ticket if there’s nothing else at hand. When I’m writing, I am immersed in the topic and genre I am writing about. ANTics is my first novel so I am reading a lot about the writing and editing process, also other author’s blogs for writing tips. I love the American West and am a great fan of westerns and historical novels.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

As a new author, I don’t have enough experience to talk specifically. However, it’s great to get reviews, and good reviews. It’s a sort of validation of all the hard work you have put into your book. I read the other day on someone’s blog that they didn’t think reviews sell books. They believe that readers don’t take much heed of them, instead they buy if they like the book cover and are hooked by the synopsis and first page/chapter.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t had a bad review. My reviews haven’t all been¬†five stars but they’ve included great comments and some constructive feedback. Writing, like art, is subjective, so people will have different opinions. As long as it’s well-meant, without malice, I squirrel it away to hopefully make me a better writer.

About Linda “Dakota” Douglas

I’m an author from the northeast of England. As a kid I read books under the bedclothes by torchlight. Now I dive under the covers, torch in hand, to scribble down conversations between my book characters in case I forget them in the morning.

Linda trimmedI‚Äôve written stories since I was about eight years old. I wrote them on a toy typewriter and my dad did the illustrations. When I wasn’t pounding on my typewriter, you would find me smashing a tennis ball against the brick end of a block of garages beside my home. For hours on end I perfected my lob, backhand and forehand shots‚Äďall the time spinning stories in my head.

After dreaming of becoming an astronaut, tennis star, archaelogist, air stewardess or superhero, I chose a career in journalism. I pounded the beat as a newspaper reporter all my working life. I retired in 2011 and am now fulfilling my main childhood dream-of becoming an author. Under my pen name, Dakota Douglas, I have published two children’s books, ANTics and WOOF. When not writing, or burning my husband’s dinner, I can be found on the golf course, not hitting like Tiger.

Author’s Roundtable: Loree Lough

How long have you been writing?

Before I answer, I’d like to thank you, Jason, for inviting me to your blog! I’m honored to be here and grateful for the opportunity to meet your followers!

I started writing articles in 1986. I had collected about 2,200 published features when I decided to try my hand at fiction. My first novel was released in 1994.
Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

No.¬†I actually stumbled into this career when my husband’s job took the family to Richmond. While looking for something to occupy my days and add a few dollars to the family coffers (too cheap/lazy to recertify to teach in Virginia), I accepted a position as a freelance neighborhood correspondent. The editor liked my stuff and started assigning other stories, and after a few months, editors at other papers/magazines were doing the same. Another job transfer brought us back to Baltimore. I loved the work, so I showed my “clip book” to Baltimore/DC editors and voila! A career was born.

First Responders BannerWhat books or stories have you written? Published?

My list includes fiction and non-fiction books–historical and contemporary–for kids and adults. With 100 titles, it’s probably easier to skim the list at my website!

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Every book has a specific theme (forgiveness, acceptance, tolerance, redemption, etc.), and they’re all a blend of action, adventure, suspense…with a little romance thrown in for flavor. Basically, the books are about people just like you and me, facing the same challenges we face…and finding ways to overcome obstacles by story’s end.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

Every book is the result of some real-life event. Some, I overhear (because I’m a former reporter…nosy, y’know?). Others are the offshoots of things I read in the newspaper or hear on the TV news. Once an event piques my curiosity, it’s a game of “…and then what happened?” or “…and he reacted like this.” Or both!

Are the books based on personal experiences?

I believe to some degree, all authors appear in their own novels. We try hard to keep our opinions and viewpoints OFF the pages, but like it or not, who and what we are, the lives we’ve lived, our attitude toward triumph and tragedy…ends up in our stories, at least to some degree.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

First…read, read, read the types of stories you think you’d like to write. Then, find every how-to book you can get your hands on, and make notes of the things that “speak” to you. Sign up for writing classes at your community college. Register for writers’ conferences so you can learn still more from people who lead workshops and seminars. And all the while, write, write, write. One page a day = 250 words = 365 pages at the end of a year. That’s a novel, my dears! If you feel it merits a look-see by a legitimate editor or agent, submit it! (Because all the other things you’ve learned will have taught you how to put Loree 300 dpi newtogether a professional proposal package.) If you aren’t quite sure of yourself yet, join a critique group, and take to heart the advice of your peers. Incorporate their tips into your masterpiece, and THEN submit! One thing to remember, always: If you quit, you won’t sell. It’s just that simple.
Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

That’s a touchy subject for me. I know LOTS of people who profess to be “professional editors” who are anything BUT. They have no credentials, no experience, no knowledge of what it takes to write, submit and sell a book. I also know a handful of editors who really ARE what they claim to be, and their input has made the difference between hearing editors/agents say, “Thanks, but no thanks” and “We’d like to offer a contract!” So this is what I tell my students: Treat BOOK doctors the way you’d treat a medical doctor. Check them out. Ask to see proof they can fulfill their promises. Make them show you a list of things THEY have published. (One published book–whether published by a respected company or a vanity press–does not qualify a person to advise you.) So talk with writer friends who have hired editors/book doctors. Find out if they got what they paid for. This is of critical importance, because I’ve heard from hundreds of heartbroken writers who paid editors/book doctors, only to end up with a huge unreadable mess. Which is why I’ve never hired an editor/book doctor, and never will!

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Finding time to write is always tough. I love to read. And watch TV. And spend time with friends and family. So rule #1 is…always remember that this is not a hobby. Like any other job, work comes first, and I fit all the fun stuff around it.¬†¬†

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I love writing. Love everything about it, from the research, to interviews with people who can help me better understand what my characters do for a living, the illness a secondary character is coping with, setting and/or time period. I love meting out information about the people I create, bit by bit. I love throwing huge obstacles in their path, then giving them the courage and intelligence to overcome those obstacles. I love seeing them change and grow as they work toward better, more fulfilling lives. Would I write if I didn’t get paid to do it? Yep. Sure would. <shrug> I’d just do a little less writing, that’s all!

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

I often compare writing to golf. Now, before I continue, I must confess: My golf score would be fantastic…if I was bowling!¬†Despite my obvious lack of talent on the green, the analogy makes sense. At least to me. Everything about golf, from choosing the right club to how you grip it, your stance and approach…it all requires complete concentration. Focus. IMG_0012 (4)Determination. During those moments leading up to impact, if you allow yourself to think about where your new puppy is leaving little surprises or your Visa statement, the ball isn’t going to land where you want it to. Writing is like that. To do it well, to do it “write,” you have to concentrate and focus on the story, on the characters. So, while you’re at work, you don’t have to worry about the puppy mess or where you’ll find the money to pay Visa. And here’s the kicker: While they’re reading your story, neither do your readers!

Has writing made you a better person?

I don’t know if it has made me a better person, but it certainly has improved my work ethic by turning me into a person dedicated to do my very best work, with every keystroke!

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I read a wide variety of books, by all kinds of authors: Koontz and Patterson, Sparks and Shakespeare.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

I’m blessed that I’ve received only a handful of not-so-hot reviews. In every case, I have learned a LOT from the reviewers and the reviews: Maybe I paid too much attention to a secondary character. Or spent too much time with narrative backstory. Perhaps I left out a detail the reviewer wanted addressed. And, in every case, I do my best to address those things in every book that follows. So it can be said that a well-written, thoughtful not-so-hot review is GOOD for the author AND good for the publishing industry at large.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

ALL authors can tell the difference between a not-so-hot review and those written to hurt or humiliate the author. Snarky, hyper-critical reviews aren’t reviews at all. “It took¬†three weeks to get my book, so it gets one star!” and “I hate books set in Greenland during the Vikings era! One star for you!” A little reporter-like investigation usually uncovers one of two truths: 1.) the “reviewer” gives every product (blenders, shoes, skin lotion, linens) a one-star rating. (The law of averages dictates that sooner or later, these hard-line “reviewers” would stumbled onto ONE product they liked, right?) or 2.) the one-star-I-hated-this-book reviewer is a wanna-be writer whose book has been rejected. Instead of spending energy and time trying to figure out how the work might be improved, the “reviewer” lashes out at authors whose work WASN’T rejected. In both cases, authors would be wise to ignore anything written by “reviewers” like these.

loree with guitarAbout Loree Lough

Bestselling author Loree Lough once sang for her supper, performing all across the U.S. and Canada. Now and then, she blows the dust from her six-string to croon a tune or two, but mostly, she just writes (100 novels [and counting!] that earned hundreds of industry and “Readers’ Choice” awards, four- and five-star reviews, and¬†five book-to-movie options).

Loree enjoys sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry; her comedic approach makes her a favorite lecturer for writers’ organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, and college and high school writing programs in the U.S. and abroad.

A writer who believes in giving back, Loree dedicates a generous portion of her income to favorite charities. (Click the “Giving Back” tab on Loree’s website¬†to see the list.)

Loree and her real-life hero split their time between a home in the Baltimore suburbs and a cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves showing off her “identify the critter tracks” skills.

Visit Loree’s website, be a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and¬†browse her boards on Pinterest.

Author’s Roundtable: Luke Murphy

How long have you been writing?

I started writing in 2000. It actually started out as a hobby, a passion, a way to pass the time. I got serious about writing with the intention of seeking publication in 2006.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Growing up I only wanted to be one thing, an NHL superstar. I never thought much about writing. Actually the only time I wrote was when my teachers made me.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I‚Äôve completed three manuscripts and published one of them. “Dead Man’s Hand” was released in October 2012 by Imajin Books. All of my stories are in the crime-thriller genres.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

I grew up reading suspense/thriller stories so it only made sense that I write them. All three of my manuscripts can be categorized as crime thrillers, mystery/suspense novels. “Dead Man’s Hand” takes readers inside the head of Calvin Watters, a sadistically violent African-American Las Vegas debt-collector, who was once a rising football star, now a murder suspect on the run. The book I’m currently working on follows the career of a female rookie detective with the LAPD.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

As far as characterization goes, “Dead Man’s Hand‚Äôs” protagonist Calvin Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of (Jack) Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel “Choke,” about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for “Dead Man’s Hand.”

Are the books based on personal experiences?

No. I’ve suffered sports injuries like my protagonist so I know how he feels, but this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. “Dead Man’s Hand” became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field and adding my wild imagination. The Internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

PIs there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Get a part-time job to pay the bills (ha ha). Just kidding. Honestly, for anyone who wants to be a writer, you need to have three things: patience, determination and thick skin. You can’t let anyone or anything get in the way of your ultimate goal. You will hear a lot of “nos,” but it only takes one “yes.” The writing industry is a slow-moving machine, and you need to wait it out. Never quit or give up on your dreams.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

It improved not only the story I was working on, but my overall writing and perspective. I’ve worked with editors, agents and publishers and each time I learn something new. Every professional brings a different perspective to the table and because writing is such a subjective business, it’s imperative that you have many sets of professionally trained eyes revising and editing, besides yourself. Take advice and be able to receive constructive criticism with a grain of salt. I don’t think you can ever stop learning in this business.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

“Telling” too much. The first draft of “Dead Man’s Hand” was¬†more than¬†120,000 words. After working with editors, the final published version was 80,000 words. I did too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” Also learning to be patient with the whole process was definitely a challenge.

How did you find time to write your books?

I started writing when I was young and playing professional hockey. A couple of hours a day on the ice and in the gym and then the day was mine. I also suffered a serious eye injury in 2000 and couldn’t play, so I had a lot more time on my hands. Now that I’m older, with a family and full-time job, makes it a lot harder to find the time to write. I’m most productive early in the morning before my kids wake up, but lately I haven’t had any time to write.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

Writing allows me, for a short time, the freedom to leave my everyday world and explore new avenues, to be in another place and time. It allows me to get inside the head of characters‚ÄĒto think, do and say whatever I want with no rules or restrictions. It means liberty and freedom to express myself.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

I’m never more at ease than when I’m sitting in my writing office early in the morning, a hot cup of tea in front of me, letting my fingers rest on the keyboard and my brain relax and let go. There’s no better, more calm feeling in the world. Everything around me disappears and I get tunnel-vision on the monitor in front of me. Just ask my wife.

Has writing made you a better person?

I like to think so, but that is determined through the eyes of the people around me.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read, and I always have. It only makes sense that I write what I read, so naturally I like to read crime-thrillers. I try to support other new and up-and-coming authors. If I’m in research mode, then I read documentaries, etc. But my first choice is fiction. My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys. They introduced me to the mystery/suspense genres. My first adult novel was “Cujo” by Stephen King. Some of my favorite authors now are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Extremely. Reviews are what many readers look at before determining what to buy and put you in good standing in the industry. Many promotional opportunities are designed to cater to those novels with the most and best reviews. Reviews are considered vital in a writer’s pursuit for success.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Since my first novel is relatively new, I haven’t yet received a review less than three out of five stars. The first time I received a three-star review I felt unsettled and uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure how to react. But the reviewer had nothing but good things to say, as well as some constructive criticism about the book so the¬†three stars didn’t seem as bad. You have to learn to have thick skin and let these reviews bounce of you. Just remember, it’s not personal.

_3About Luke Murphy

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

Murphy’s debut novel, “Dead Man’s Hand,” was released by Imajin Books on Oct. 20, 2012.

For more information on Luke and his books, visit his website, “Like” his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter. Buy “Dead Man’s Hand” on Amazon.

Wasted Talent?

If you’re anything like me, and follow the sports blogs in the South, you’ve probably heard that the Georgia Bulldogs dismissed running back Isaiah Crowell after he was arrested for having a concealed weapon in his car in a school zone. As soon as I heard about the story, Thursday I think, boy my face was redder than the uniforms the players wear on gameday.

How the hell can anybody be so unbelievably stupid and careless? And as for Crowell saying he didn’t know the gun was in the car… hello, word is it’s your mom’s car. Sure you knew it was in there. I mean, common sense would have told me to at least check to make sure it wasn’t before I went out partying with the guys.

And why the hell were they out at 2:30 in the morning anyway? I thought college players had a curfew? I tell you what this kind of crap really burns me up. I was texting a friend my mom works with about it, and told her if I was Coach Mark Richt, I’d kick him off the team (which, by the way is what happened). How can anybody with so much ahead of them, a college degree, probably a good paying job and a full life waiting for him after graduation, throw EVERYTHING down the damn toilet and risk everything just because they’re so stupid and think the rules don’t apply to them?

Of course the rules apply to you. Now I don’t know what the future will hold for Isaiah, but I hope somebody, whether it be a parent, teacher, mentor or former coach takes him aside and kicks some common sense into his ass before it’s too late. I just hope it’s not too late for Georgia to save their season before it starts.

I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. I graduated college in December 2006, and receiving my degree was one of the proudest, most amazing moments in my life. I’ve got a part-time job, wonderful friends, an amazing family and¬†the life¬†some people can probably only dream of. I sure hate to think what would’ve happened if I’d thrown it all down the drain by going out drinking, doing drugs or fooling around with weapons. I do know one thing for certain, though. I would’ve let my¬†family, friends and myself down and would have had the worst ass whipping ever if I was caught. But the one thing that sticks in my mind and makes me grateful I¬†made the right decisions is that I would have let the one person down who means the WORLD to me, and I will be damned if I ever let that happen. Who’s that person? He is the One Who has always been there for me to lead me beside the still waters and directs me down the paths of righteousness: my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Team Bring It!

Wednesday¬†night, my sister and I went to UGA Day in Rome, one of several chances every year for fans to come listen to the University of Georgia’s head football coach Mark Richt and head basketball coach Mark Fox discuss their expectations for the upcoming season. I’ve been to UGA Day the past three years, this year and 2010 and 2011 in Marietta at the Cobb Galleria, and this was one of the best yet.

I’m going to do a longer post about the entire UGA Day experience later this summer after I go to UGA Day in Marietta, but wanted to mention something that let me know the Dawgs are for real this year, despite what the media says.

While Coach Richt, or as he’s known in Dawg Country “CMR,” was talking, he mentioned that the Missouri Tigers are one of the newest members of the SEC, and Georgia’s conference opener¬†is against Mizzou at their place on Sept. 8. CMR seemed to be really pumped about this year’s squad, despite the suspensions and players leaving to pursue more playing time, and he said something like, “When we play Missouri, all I know is we’re gonna bring it and try to welcome the Tigers to the SEC.”

Welcome to the SEC boys!!!

By the way, while I was mingling, taking pictures before the festivities kicked off, one thing I noticed is the SEC has BY FAR the most beautiful women in the country. Don’t believe me, maybe this picture will change your mind ūüėČ

I’m Back with the Eye of the Tiger!!!

Okay, you can cancel your APBs and tear up your search warrants, your favorite spina bifida guy is back… Yes, after a long, stressful absence, I’ve finally returned to show the blog some much-needed TLC.

I still have a lot to do on a big project at work, but a couple hours ago, I finally said the heck with it and decided to wait until Monday to try to finish it. I probably would’ve been done by now, but my computer (at work and home) keeps freezing, and the website we’re trying to update keeps being a pain in the royal butt. I spent half the time the past few months waiting, tapping my fingers, waiting, going to the bathroom, waiting some more, going BACK to the bathroom, talking to co-workers who passed in the hall, waiting, going BACK to the bathroom and writing articles for work… oh yeah, did I mention waiting and going to the bathroom?

I tell you what, I haven’t been this frustrated working on a project ever. I was more frustrated than George Brett when the umpires found too much pine tar on his bat and called him out!! I don’t care who you are that’s funny right there!! Speaking of funny, did you hear the one about the guy who went to the doctor? He walked in and said, “Hey doc, I think I got some fluid on my knee.” The doctor said, “Well obviously your aim was a little off!!” ūüėČ

But honestly, while I’ve been away from the blogging and social media communities, I’ve really done some soul searching and learned so much about myself. I mentioned I’ve been working on a huge project for work, which should have been done WAY before now, but as I said, technology can be a pain in the butt. While I’ve been trying to get everything done, I’ve felt like giving up a few times and have even wanted to just walk away from everything a couple times. I can’t tell¬†you how many times I’ve felt like Rocky Balboa, getting his head bashed in by¬†Apollo Creed, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. I know he’s a fictional character, but Rocky’s given me a new release on life, and every day from now on I’m going to get up, stare my troubles in the face and fight back with the “Eye of the Tiger.”

A¬†lot of people have told me that I’m bigger than my problems and should be proud of everything I’ve accomplished. A few Twitter friends have even said something I had totally forgotten, but should always remember: God loves me unconditionally and knows everything I go through. This is so true and something we should all take comfort in. Even though we feel like giving up and quitting, God will ALWAYS be there to hold our hands and guide us through the storms we face in life, no matter how big or small. After all, He overcame some of the biggest storms anyone should ever have to face and rose from the dead to protect us, love us and guide us in the way He would have us go.

I’ve spent a lot of valuable, quiet time with the Lord the past few months, at work, driving down the road, eating dinner and relaxing in my room before bed. He has spoken to me several times, and told me that He loves me and will never leave nor forsake me, and that I truly belong with the city of Marietta, and for that I will forever be grateful. It’s really comforting to know that I belong with the city of Marietta and have a loving Savior, Who will always watch over me and help lead me to choices that are in my best interest. I truly believe I belong with the city of Marietta, and hope I’m working there for many years to come, but it’s taken a lot of prayer and looking deep inside my heart to realize this.

Well, I just wanted to stop by and let you know what was on my heart tonight, and thank you so much for listening. I really hope and pray you will keep following the blog and keeping up with me if you see me on Twitter. January and February may be a distant memory, but I have a feeling that the rest of 2012 is going to be awesome. If you have something you’d like me to discuss on the blog this year or want me to expand on a post I wrote the past year and a half, you can always reach me, either in the comments or by e-mail. It may take a while to respond but I will… thanks for hanging around¬†for the ride. I’m just sorry it took a while to fix that loose wheel!!! ūüėČ

Stay strong, and¬†remember “Eye of the Tiger!!”¬†ūüėČ

Author’s Roundtable: Stacy Juba

How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I’ve been writing since third grade, when I wrote my first story, “The Curse of the White Witch.” By fifth grade, I was writing my own mystery series featuring an amateur sleuth named Cathy Summers. I wrote my first novel, “Face-Off,” in high school study halls, and I was fortunate enough to have it published when I was 18. Later, I became a reporter and a marketing writer. Writing has always been what I’m best at. Math and science, not so much!

What books or stories have you written?

I’ve published books for adults, teens and children.

Adult mystery/romantic suspense novels

Twenty-Five Years Ago Today” – When obit writer Kris Langley investigates the 25-year-old unsolved murder of an artistic barmaid who was obsessed with Greek mythology, she must fight to stay off the obituary page herself.

“Sink or Swim” – After starring on a hit reality show, an ambitious personal trainer attracts a stalker upon returning to her normal life.

Young adult

“Dark Before Dawn” – A teen psychic moves with her family to a Maine beach town and hooks up with a mysterious fortuneteller.

Face-Off” – Twin brothers and hockey stars Brad and T.J. McKendrick compete both on and off the ice.


“The Flag Keeper” – An illustrated picture book that teaches children about U.S. flag etiquette through a fiction story, flag facts and activity ideas.

“The Teddy Bear Town Children’s E-book Bundle” – includes three illustrated picture books: “The Flag Keeper,” “Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise” and “Sticker Shoes.”

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Although I was initially published at a young age, it took 17 years to sell a second book to a publisher. There were a lot of ups and downs Рtwo agents, near misses at publishing houses where editors would go to bat for my book and get turned down by the Pub. Committees, contest wins, contest losses and many form letters. It was like an emotional rollercoaster of getting my hopes up and then having them dashed. There were a few times when I asked myself why I kept putting myself through this.  The other challenge has just been fitting writing into a busy life Рbalancing it over the years with family, other jobs, freelance clients, etc. 

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

I’d recommend finding critique partners whose feedback you trust, joining a professional organization in your genre such as Sisters in Crime for mystery writers and honing your business skills. Writing is the fun part, but you also need to know how to promote your published books and develop marketing savvy. You’ll need to put some money into business expenses, such as a website, review copies and advertising, but spend that money wisely. Also stay updated on the changes in the publishing industry, and the whole e-book trend. There are more options for authors today than ever before.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I love to write. I’ve always been introverted and writing has been a way for me to express myself.¬† I’m almost in a meditative state when I write – a few hours can pass in a blur. It’s enjoyable for me, and I love having the opportunity to entertain readers and distract them from the stress of their daily lives.

Has writing made you a better person? Was there a point in your life where writing helped you deal with something, a death or a problem relationship perhaps?

I don’t know if it’s made me a better person, but being a writer is who I am. If I’d chosen a different career path, I wouldn’t have stayed true to myself. It’s a career that has always pulled at me like a magnet. I remember that writing helped me a lot in college. That was a lonely time of life, before I met my husband, and I wasn’t the type to drink or go to parties. I didn’t enjoy living in the dorm and missed my family. Once I finished my homework, I’d go on my word processor and immerse myself in writing my latest novel. My characters kept me company at a time when no one else did.¬†¬†¬†

About Stacy Juba

Although Stacy Juba specializes in writing adult novels, she has also authored books for children and young adults ‚Äď she pursues whatever story ideas won’t leave her alone. Stacy’s titles include the mystery/romantic suspense novels “Twenty-Five Years Ago Today” and “Sink or Swim,” the mystery short story “Laundry Day,” the children’s picture books “The Flag Keeper,” “Victoria Rose and the Big Bad Noise,” and the “Teddy Bear Town Children’s E-Book Bundle” (three complete picture books), and the young adult novels “Face-Off” and “Dark Before Dawn.” She is a former journalist with more than a dozen writing awards to her credit and is currently working on a contemporary fiction/romantic comedy novel, as well as a new mystery novel.

Check out Stacy’s blog and website, buy her books at her store (all online retailers) and on Amazon.¬†Follow Stacy on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook and read more about her on Goodreads.