Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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 ponder his alternatives. One of those involved taking up the pen...

From 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 I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.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:, or check him out on Facebook!/AuthorLukeMurphy or Twitter!/AuthorLMurphy

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Tales from the Ice(pack)

This 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:, or check him out on Facebook!/AuthorLukeMurphy or Twitter!/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….

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The 22nd, and it becomes inescapable: the Kennedy assassination, 50 years ago. A before and after, where-were-you event.

I was a very young boy. In fact, the assassination may be my earliest conscious memory. There’s a fine way to start off a life: televised murder and national grieving before you know what death is. And people wonder why my work has a dark sensibility.

Here’s how the political becomes personal. At the time, my dad worked for the Spokane Chronicle. The news came over the TV or radio in the cafe where he ate his lunch, and, when the shock subsided, my father turned to the waitress and, in his droll way, asked: “Can I get that to go?”

I didn’t see him for the next three days. The newspaper staff basically lived at the office, publishing nonstop updates. I still recall the anxiety and confusion I felt. Adults—men and women—spontaneously, inexplicably weeping for reasons I couldn’t understand. This great man, dead. And, to my mind, my father missing.

I do have one weird, vivid memory from that time. Waking up early, while the rest of the household slept, and wandering out to the living room. Turning on the TV. Black and white, hearses moving slowly past blurred faces lining the street. And, for some reason, I put my hands flat against the screen, as though I might receive some kind of physical transmission. I don’t remember ever having done that, before or since. The screen seemed to sizzle.

It all gets muddled, of course. Did I see Cronkite announce the president’s death? It seems like I did, but I’ve seen the clip so many times since then, Cronkite removing his glasses and choking up, that I can’t separate the real-time event from subsequent footage.

It was frightening, of course, even though I surely couldn’t understand what was going on. I remember fear. And I remember trying not to show it because everyone was already upset. The event t became a touchstone for years of “oh no” moments. Bobby. MLK. Chicago. “This is a CBS/NBC/ABC news bulletin….”

Years later, I’d have my own chance, as a radio reporter, to become The Voice. I’m sure I announced a few deaths, but the only even I really remember was announcing we’d invaded Grenada. Grenada? Where? Isn’t that a soft drink? I suppose it had its weight, so close to Cuba. I ripped the story off the teletype, just like in the movies. I can’t tell you how somber…and marvelous…that felt. That sort of thing makes you a news junkie.

The killing marked another cultural change, one that took a while to settle in. Those various shoot-em-up films from the Fifties? Where a character gets shot, clutches, and slides to the floor, perhaps a thin, discreet trickle of blood showing? No more. Not after the president’s head explodes. “The pink mist” as the soldiers say. Coupled with the nightly televised carnage of the Vietnam War, a visceral reaction against the true horror of violence led to its hyperrealistic portrayal on film. “Bonnie and Clyde” probably set the tipping point, but a whole generation of filmmakers expressed their fury with fountains of blood, as if to scream: look at it, look at it, look at it!

Understandable, but now moviegoers watch gory torture flicks for entertainment, and mutilated bodies show up on network television, and every other week, it seems, someone with a gun flips into overload and goes full medieval on total strangers. So I’m not certain the aesthetic choice achieved the desired effect.

When the light faded from JFK’s eyes, it’s said a certain innocence went with it—an optimism and, as he would say, vigor. But it could also be said that a veil ripped away, and we saw a truer portrait America: violent, dark, paranoid, and vengeful.

The two, paradoxically, co-exist. And perhaps it’s ironic that a man who’d known his own share of loss and violence, war and illness, would unwittingly pass on a profound lesson. JFK turned out to be one World War II veteran who told his whole story.