Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Story of Broccoli Brian


     Once upon a time there lived the most amazing dog who we remember in the positive children’s book Broccoli Brian. Here is the background story of how the book came to be written.

     Many years ago, my husband and I got a sweet dog that had been abandoned as a puppy in a field near Atlanta, Georgia. A family had found him and one of the children gave him the name, Brian, after a school friend.  Brian was a lovable dog and also happened to be a huge fan of broccoli. I was a first grade teacher at the time and we thought this would be a fun way to get children to eat broccoli. In the story, Brian and his best friend, Milo (our second dog) are consumed with the daily chase of Fraidy cat (my parents’ persnickety pet).  The story follows the dogs’ constant pursuit of Fraidy and Milo becoming trapped in a mud-filled pig pen. Brian comes to the rescue with his handy pouch of broccoli which gives him amazing strength. We sketched the pictures and an artist created the colorful images. All those years ago, we envisioned a series in which Milo lands in difficult situations and is always rescued by Broccoli Brian. Last year, Brian passed away after sixteen wonderful years with us and Milo also recently died. We planted a tree in our front yard with Brian’s ashes. The book is a testament to our devoted family pets and our love of books.

  The message is one that promotes healthy eating in youngsters and the inspiration for the story is very dear to our family.




Friday, November 22, 2013

Nature: My Muse

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.
― Henry David Thoreau – Walden


     I don’t usually use this blog for personal musings but this night, I felt compelled to share one of my favorite places and my affinity with nature.  As a college English instructor, I was honored to accept a substitute position this fall teaching at a campus at which I normally don’t work. Other than the great challenge of teaching an 8:00 am class to college students and ferrying my children out the door at an early hour, it has been a blessing. I adore my students and feel that we have really made some excellent academic strides.
This post refers to the perk of my new post. Friday runs at my special place at sacred battlefield in Northern Virginia. I have spent hours and trekked many miles at this special place of battle. My convergence with nature in all seasons of the year has brought me immeasurable joy. I have had some wonderful experiences and runs along these natural trails. In each season, there are new images of life and nature that are forever imprinted in my heart. The travels are also imprinted with the lovely souls that run with me and share their communion.  I would never trade these times for a tennis bracelet or a trip to the mall. When I inhabit this space, I truly feel at home. I think Mr. Thoreau was a cutting edge thinker. In nature, we are in the zone and truly present in the moment. In this month of thankfulness, I am grateful for my special space in Virginia. I honestly feel that I am blooming where I am planted.


Monday, October 21, 2013

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Wailin' Jennys - Arlington

A dear friend recommended this amazing band - I am passing her gift to you!
Check them out and follow them.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Last Resort - Dan Llywelyn Hall - Art

Dan  Llywelyn  Hall

Recent Work - The Last Resort
Saturday 23rd November 2013 @Chase House, Richmond, London

A solo exhibition of recent paintings. Inspired from trips to Crete, France and the Canaries, the exhibition will explore ideas concerned with travel. Please register your email above if you would like to be sent an invitation to this exhibition.
internal link Click here to view selection of work on show 

The Wild Feathers - Ramblin' Man (Truckstop Covers Series - Part 1)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch - Julia Cameron


The Sound of Paper:  Starting from Scratch – Julia Cameron (2005)

     Julia Cameron is an American writer and teacher who is most famous for her 1992 book, The Artist’s Way, a legendary twelve week, self-paced nonfiction book that will inspire creativity and spirituality.  The book is for the open-minded reader and cultivates an immersion into writing and nature. Cameron’s most recent work in her extremely prolific career is called, The Artist’s Way for Parents: Raising Creative Children (2013). I have read many of her books and am currently devouring, The Sound of Paper: Starting from Scratch (2005). I have had a busy summer and wish I had many more hours to devote to this amazing book.  This nonfiction, personal narrative is beautifully and thoughtfully written, with exercises at the end of each of chapter for enhancing a sense of creativity and exploration that many of us have lost in our vigorous pursuit of work and productivity. Cameron’s books assist in helping the reader slow down and she uses writing as a meditation tool that will positively influence all endeavors of readers' lives.  Her work will have a profound effect on your own life if you follow her plan.

     Cameron’s books are meant to assist in the internal awareness of an individual and help us explore the spiritual nature of our existence. In my review, I ask all readers to be open and read her ideas with a kind heart.  There are exercises that require some inner work and they are magnificent for personal growth. Ms. Cameron writes that we ourselves are all creations and therefore, our creativity stems from inspiration – the Latin word for “spirit.” 

     In The Artist’s Way and many of Cameron’s works she follows an interesting formula:  1. The Morning Pages: set your clock for thirty minutes earlier than normal each day and write three pages in a journal or spiral notebook (it must be longhand and no computer is permitted; you can get a cup of coffee, but this  writing is meant for the moment you wake). The pages might not be “real” prose but anything you wish to write. It is meant for clearing mental clutter and having an intimate conversation with yourself. You will eventually gain some real insights about yourself from the pages and see growth in your life. 2. The Artist’s Date: Set a few minutes to an hour each week to explore something that interests you: examples - a museum, fabric store, nature trail, art store, the Goodwill, a bookstore, etc. – follow your heart and just get lost somewhere for ten minutes to an hour. Cameron says, “Think pleasure not duty.” 3. Walk – get outside and walk if only for ten minutes a week. Be with nature. The best scenario is to walk or run every day for thirty minutes to an hour. This formula is so very simple and takes a bit of discipline but the rewards are amazing.

     In The Sound of Paper, Cameron shares her experiences and stories regarding living a creative life. She often reverts to her magical formula and describes that we all have a creative side (everyday, we unconsciously make many creative choices in our lives).  The author and some of my most interesting friends have been doing the pages for over twenty years.  I have been doing the pages, artist’s dates, and running in outside for the last seven months and recommend Cameron’s formula for all who read this post! I hope this writing will generate some creativity in my readers; it truly benefits everyone when we create.

Cameron quotes author, Henry Miller, : Develop an interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls, and interesting people. Forget yourself…. (55). Enjoy the journey and this amazing book!


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: Gabrielle Reece


My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: Gabrielle Reece

On an ordinary Saturday morning, I was beyond excited when this new book arrived on my doorstep.  My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less than Perfect Life is the second nonfiction book by volleyball icon, fitness expert, and devoted mother, friend, and wife: Gabrielle Reece.  The author also wrote an earlier book called Big Girl in the Middle, which I count as a favorite for inspiration on cultivating a hard work ethic with regard to lifestyle and fitness.  On a side note, Ms. Reece is married to surfing legend, Laird Hamilton, a fitness guru and proponent of healthy living. In my Northern Virginia hometown, I may have the local library record for the amount of times I have checked out his book, Force of Nature, which is sort of the key to his amazing philosophy on life, fitness/ exercise tips, and a glimpse into his healthy vibe.

 Being a lucky book blogger, I was able to read My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper the day before its mainstream media release. (Note: I collect books the way many women collect shoes!)  First of all, I love the self depreciating and cheeky title which drew me in with its humor and honesty.  I proceeded to read the book in the span of two days and it scored off the charts on my meter of “unputdownable.”  I meant to review the book the next day but due to a full-time teaching career, motherhood, and graduate studies – the review would have to wait.  The book has so many positive messages and wonderful advice for the modern wife and mother.  My favorite theme is that of exercise. Ms. Reece is a preacher to my own cause and core philosophy that to feel good and be productive in life, some sort of exercise is imperative every day.  Reece writes, “Regular exercise is the secret to everything” (61) and “Its not only the natural cure for depression, but also deals out all those great endorphins, the world’s best high, natural or otherwise” (61).  As a runner, yoga enthusiast, and a lover of sports in general (mind you, this evolved later in life for me), this is one of the most important themes of this illuminating book.  I could spend volumes ruminating on the life changing and hugely beneficial aspects of exercise and getting out in nature on a daily basis. Studies show us that even a thirty minute daily walk can have enormous health benefits!

Reece shares a lot of personal anecdotes on marriage, childrearing, and the value of female friendship. Unfortunately, the mainstream media glommed on to one sentence she mentioned on keeping equilibrium in a relationship with ones husband by sometimes being “submissive.”  I hardly remember this portion of the book and it’s unfortunate that this became the spotlight topic in her interviews.  As a reader of the author’s earlier piece and being a huge fan of her husband’s book, I feel that their main message is too keep life natural, simple, filled with activity, and time spent on family.  Ms. Reece is not trying to sell a gimmick but kindly shares the intricacies of both the highs and lows of a lifestyle that works.  I loved this book (even though I was disappointed the author has only one vice: chocolate).  Overall, this is a fabulous book by a women who does not pretend to have it all and is brave enough to put her personal life choices out for the masses to chew on. Five big stars to My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper! You will be wiser, more motivated, and possibly healthier and thinner for reading this fantastic book.

Make sure to read another favorite by Laird Hamilton: Inspiration on ocean life and surfing.



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jennifer Howell, The Art of Elysium

Interview: Jennifer Howell


On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I met Jennifer Howell.  Jen is a wonderful, down to earth, and  dynamic person. Jen is also a renowned philanthropist and amazing human being. She is the founder of an interesting project. The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization founded in 1997,  encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions. They provide artistic workshops in the following disciplines: acting, art, comedy, fashion, music, radio, songwriting and creative writing.

What propelled you to create the charitable organization, The Art of Elysium?

I went to film school at Emerson College and moved to Los Angeles to write and direct.  Shortly after moving to LA, a friend of mine, from my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, relapsed with leukemia.  He had been diagnosed our senior year of high school, but had found a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant and he had gone into what we believed was a full remission.  He was dating my best friend and she called me in December of 1996 and asked me to come home to see Stephen and be with her. That trip changed everything for me.  In one conversation with Stephen and Tara, my life took a very different path than I had ever intended.  I came back to Los Angeles and that conversation played over and over in my head and Stephen’s simple statement of, “I wish someone would do something for the kids who are in the hospital without friends or family visiting them.”  By August of 1997, I just asked a group of my friends that I had gone to art school with to get together and figure out a way that we could share our artistic talents with these children.  That was the beginning and what was to come from that first meeting, first hospital visit. This first interaction with an artist and a child in need is what paved the path for the Art of Elysium.

What is the overall mission of  the Art of Elysium and the meaning behind the name?

That seems like the most straightforward question that you could ask but it is one of the hardest things to answer.  In a simple sentence, the Art of Elysium bridges the artistic community together with hospitalized children to provide a creative outlet for them to express their experiences and serves as a form of distractive therapy.  However, that is the very beginning of this mission.  I was fortunate enough to start taking artists into the hospitals from August 1997-December of 1997 before starting the Art of Elysium.  I got to witness not only the impact the art workshops had on the patients and their families, but the impact it had on the artists.  We would leave the hospital and the artist would be inspired to write, paint, and perform because of their experience.  I believe the greater mission of the Art of Elysium goes something like this:  these amazing children are our spiritual warriors and teachers; they are going through things that most of us will never experience.  Our gift is getting to be of service to these children while they are facing these grave circumstances and through our gift of art, music, writing, dance, fashion design, etc we can give them a voice to express themselves during this time.  Hopefully, this gift of expression will go with them even after they are discharged from the hospital.  It is my belief that artists are forever changed through these experiences, and if we are creating an artistic community that creates from a place of service then we can change the world at large because artists are the true reflection of our society.  We try to do all of our fundraisers through an artistic endeavor and try to support the artists that volunteer and dedicate their hearts and souls to working with our children.  They are the role models that I would love for people to look up to and be inspired by.  Although we have a standard mission statement, it is something that I think about all the time because there is no way to describe the full circle of the Art of Elysium to people unless they have gone in and experienced what we do first hand.  The charity is much more a movement of artists trying to create ELYSIUM by being of service.

How do you find interested celebrities and artists for your work?

We don’t look for celebrities to be involved with the charity.  The celebrities that volunteer with us have all come from word of mouth and I do not look at them as celebrities, but as artists just like all of our other artist volunteers.  The only thing that our “celebrities” can do that our other artist volunteers cannot is bring attention to our cause and help raise money through various endorsements, etc.  We are so greatly appreciative for all of their support and what they do. However, the charity is in no way a “celebrity charity,” and I feel that because we have so many artists who are successful and in the media that people do not realize that our mission is to bring artists at all levels into hospitals to share their talent and artistic expression with children.   

Can you share a bit about your friend who was the catalyst for the project and his legacy?

Stephen Lane Hatten was one of the greatest guys that anyone could ever know.  After relapsing with leukemia, he did not think about himself, but thought about the children that he saw in the hospitals while he was in for his treatments.  His selflessness was the call to action that changed my life.  He is with us every single day, in every workshop, every gallery exhibit, and every artistic endeavor and by our side for every challenge that we face.  His family is still in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and I pray that the Art of Elysium forever honors Stephen and the set of principles that his family gave him to live by.  You never realize who the most important people in your life really are.  Tara Williamson (Stephen’s girlfriend/my best friend from childhood) has been my rock my entire life and I would not be who I am today without her and always knew that she would help shape my identity.  I did not know that when she called me to come home and be with her and visit Stephen that Stephen Hatten would become the single most important person in my life.  He is the one who has shaped my destiny and the future of the Art of Elysium and every artist that gets to participate in an art workshop and every child who is given the gift of expression.

How do you keep the artistic and monetary momentum alive?

The artistic momentum is really easy….we are an artist charity first and foremost and each artist that comes in has their own creative ideas and art projects.  They come in and discuss how they can help raise money through art exhibits, music showcases, film projects and ideas that have probably never even been thought of by anyone.  I feel creatively inspired every day and fulfilled with the knowing that these artists are putting work into the world for audiences to see that come from a fundamental belief that philanthropy comes first and giving is giving of yourself.  The overall monetary model is an on-going work in process.  We are currently trying to look at the sustainability of the Art of Elysium and make certain that the charity and our mission will be around from here to eternity.  We are trying to begin building an endowment fund and it is a new endeavor.  I am actually meeting with someone this week to start looking at a long term strategy.

What are the grassroots elements of the project and how do you help the real life beneficiaries of  the Art of Elysium in hospitals?

The grassroots elements with the Art of Elysium happen after every workshop.  An artist goes in with their art project and shares it with one patient or a group of patients.  They leave the hospital and let’s say they go to the recording studio to meet their band and they tell them about the experience.  The next thing that happens is our phones start ringing at the Aof E offices with new artists wanting to come in for volunteer orientations and when they can get into the hospital for a workshop.  That is truly how this organization has grown.  Saint Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.”  I think that our volunteers understand this better than most and when they talk about their experiences people see something that inspires them to be of service too.

Where do you see the mission for the Art of Elysium in ten years?

I would love to have Elysium Centers where our artists could have recording studios, art studios, design studios, sound stages, etc for their use to create their art.  The way the center would work is that you could have access to it based on volunteer hours in the hospital with our patients.  When children are discharged from the hospital, they could also come to the space and continue the art workshops they started while in the hospital.  I see it as creating an entire community of artists that give by directly sharing their own gift of creation with a child in need.  I think that the possibilities are limitless when you have artists willing to reach inside and find ways to share their creativity.  I just would like to know that the mission is ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-creating in a way that can help heal our children, our artists and our world.

As  the Art of Elysium evolves, do you see it going nationwide and to other countries?

I would love to see the Art of Elysium in any city, any country, anywhere where there is a child in a hospital and an artist in their community that is willing to share their gift of art.

Can you share some current projects and artistic ideas that inspire you?

The Art of Elysium’s ELYSIUM INDUSTRY program has just finished our first feature film called FOREVER.  The director is Tatia Pilieva and she has been a long time volunteer and is the first recipient of our TAHNEE AWARD.  This film is the heart of our mission and shows how all of our volunteers come together and create something magical.  Mark Mothersbaugh did the score for the film, Shepard Fairey is currently working on the movie poster and marketing materials and our cast was mainly our volunteers:  Ioan Gruffudd, Shanola Hampton, Rain Phoenix and more.  It is a beautiful film and we are currently getting ready to take it out and share it with the world.  The back end of the film will come into the Art of Elysium and hopefully help us start building our endowment fund.  It is a project that I am super proud of and a model that I think will truly help us become self-sufficient through our artistic endeavors.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Artist Dan Llywelyn Hall: Vantage Point, An Exhibition of Works


presents an exhibition of works by




Vantage Point


Gallery Petit, Chelsea, London

21 March - 19 April





This unique exhibition will showcase landscape paintings by renowned Welsh artist Dan

Llywelyn Hall, accompanied by previously unseen studies for his recent portrait of Her

Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The show is in conjunction with the anticipated Cardiff

unveiling of the artist’s portrait of the Queen, commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union.


Dan Llywelyn Hall graduated from the University of Westminster in 2003 and in the same year was

awarded The Sunday Times Young Artist of the Year prize. Subsequently, he was shortlisted for

the BP Portrait Award in 2009 and since then has continued to attract collectors from a variety of

museums, public institutions, corporations as well as private individuals. Llywelyn Hall’s portraits of

First World War veterans Henry Allingham and Harry Patch were recently displayed at Windsor

Castle and are now a permanent feature in the Royal Collection. The Cardiff born artist also

currently has work on display at the National Gallery of Wales, the Imperial War Museum (London),

the House of Lords, BT’s corporate collection, Barclays’ corporate collection, the Museum of

Modern Art Wales and the Contemporary Art Society of Wales.

The Queen's Portrait

A portrait of Her Majesty the Queen commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union has recently been

completed by Llewelyn Hall. Following a sitting with the Queen late last year at Windsor Castle, the

finished portrait is an imposing three-quarter study, painted on a 5ft by 4ft canvass in an

expressionist style. The image is literally larger than life and Llywelyn Hall says he was particularly

keen to reflect the humanity of his subject.

“To have been granted a sitting with Queen is an ambition fulfilled and it has been an enormous

privilege to be asked to create this work,” says Llywelyn Hall. “As anyone who has ever met Her

Majesty will know, it is simply awe inspiring to be in her presence and I wanted to relay that feeling

as well as showing the very human side to the Queen’s personality."

Haunting Landscapes

Dan Llywelyn Hall, Motif on Autumn Sky, 2007, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 61 cm. Courtesy of the artist

Dan Llywelyn Hall. The Caves, 2007, oil on canvas, 50 x 75 cm. Courtesy of the artist.



As well as exploring portraiture, Llewelyn Hall’s work displays his keen interest in landscape

painting. His approach towards landscape painting is a crossover between two great traditions:

boldly painted surfaces combine the Romantics’ attempt to embody human feeling and thought

with the Expressionists’ raw quality of a form, and sense of immediacy. Llywelyn Hall takes the

nostalgic vision of landscape painting and rejuvenates it with a free use of colour. In this way, he

creates a new and authentic genre, making a significant contribution to the recent revival of

landscape painting in Britain. His work owes much to the legacies of William Blake and Samuel

Palmer, along with the Neo- Romantics of the 1940s such as John Piper, Michael Ayrton and

Llywelyn Hall’s compatriot, David Jones. Agitated brushwork and simplified ornaments also expose

the formative influences of Chaim Soutine and Henri Matisse.

‘Landscape creates the theatre, the set, for much more crucial things. Landscape painting these

days has had such a bad press, a stigma – as a genre it’s mistreated by contemporary art. You

can’t really make it ironic, and that’s its drawback for contemporary art galleries...[to me] irony is for

people who haven’t got any backbone, who are afraid of putting their emotions into the work. I

think you’ve got to be very brave if you’re going to make something that is heartfelt and

meaningful, you’ve got to be prepared to put yourself on the line. That’s absolutely essential.’

Dan Llywelyn Hall in conversation with Andrew Lambirth, THE SPECTATOR

Mystical, spiritual and sublime in character, the beauty of Llywelyn Hall’s landscapes evokes in us

a sense of passing time and our own mortality. While the starting point for his images are concrete

locations, Llywelyn Hall confronts the viewer with worlds infused with his own personal response,

shaped by his feelings and moods. As the personal aspect is given a priority over an objective

depiction, the resulting imaginative scenes invite an inward contemplation on the viewer's part.

Lost in the winding paths leading towards the furthermost horizons, a recurring motif in Llywelyn

Hall’s work, the spectator is captivated within the haunting landscapes.

‘Dan Llywelyn Hall follows a tradition which first flourished amid the dreams of the Romantics. He

is part of that visionary lineage of painters for whom landscape became an embodiment of human

feeling [... yet] his paintings work to conjure a fresh, idiosyncratic and fundamentally modern


Rachel Campbell-Johnston, THE TIMES

‘For Llywelyn Hall, certain places seem to have a talismanic quality, a genius loci or 'spirit of a

place'. Before making a painting he usually decides on a location, and then takes photographs.

After that he strips away what he calls ‘evidence’ to leave the raw essence of a form which he

explores through his intense, free use of colour.’


A collection of Llywelyn Hall’s landscape works will be on show, alongside several studies for his

recent portrait of the Queen, at Sandra Higgins’ Gallery Petit in Chelsea. The exhibition will run

from Thursday 21st March to Friday 19th April. The artist will also be giving a talk with his personal

reflections on painting the Queen.

For more information about the exhibition, artist’s talk, or to arrange a viewing by appoin
tment Sandra Higgins at or

Note to Editors
The exhibitions will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Rachel Campbell-Johnston

(Chief Art Critic at The Times), Andrew Lambirth (Art Critic for The Spectator) and Sue Hubbard

(Independent Art Critic, writes regularly for The Independent and The New Statesman).

Both exhibitions are curated by Sandra Higgins, an Independent Art Advisor and Curator, Owner of

the Gallery Petit and the Founder of Discover Art Now. To see Sandra’s full profile:

Discover Art Now

Discover Art Now is a programme of events, private receptions, studio visits and talks launched by

Sandra Higgins, an Independent Art Advisor and Curator with over 20 years' experience in the art

world. For further information:

Fact Sheet

Exhibition Title -- Vantage Point

Exhibition Dates -- 21 March - 12 April

Location -- Gallery Petit, Chelsea, London; full address available upon request

Op ening hours -- By appointment only

Admission -- Free, please contact: sandra@sandrahiggins. com

For all enquiries, high resolution images and further information:

Sandra Higgins, Independent Art Advisor and Curator


M: 07721 741 107

Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Luke Murphy

From Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist

From a family of avid readers, even as a child, I always had a passion for books. Whether it was reading novels on road trips or writing assignments in school, literature was always part of my life.

In the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury while playing professional hockey in Oklahoma City, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a new hobby emerged.

I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby. 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).

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…


From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.


…and the cards don't fall your way?


When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.


What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?


Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.



Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice.” Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower


“You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.”—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter




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 October 20, 2012.


For more information on Luke and his books, visit:, ‘like’ his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter!/AuthorLMurphy


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interview: Dr. Harrison Solow


In your youth, what was the root of your love of literature and writing?

Undoubtedly that of most writers: reading, something that seemed so magical and was so earnestly desired when I was a very young child, that my mother, besides reading to me all the time, taught me to read when I was three. It’s a very short step from being an early and prolific reader to being a writer, at least the kind of writer I am. This is not to say that being a writer was my aim, when young. It was not. But the seeds of writerliness were sown from those books in those days, whether I knew it then or not. I do think there is something else at play here, because a great many people read prolifically and/or learn to read at a young age and do not become writers. I don’t know what that is, other than an inborn propensity to communicate. When this manifested in my school work, I was urged to consider writing and teaching (clearly there was a pedagogical bent to the work!) by my teachers.

In a former life, you were a Franciscan nun.  Can you please describe the circumstances behind pursuing this vocation and why did you depart?

No, I really can’t. There are many reasons and circumstances, spiritual and secular (mostly the latter) for both acts and most of them are personal and even those that aren’t are indescribable, at least in an interview of this length. I can tell you that part of the impetus was the pursuit of the Unknown, another was to live a dedicated life in the service of good (whatever “good” means). It turned out that I had a different definition of “good” than was compatible with the convent in which I lived and worked, but it was a place and a time of great joy, great silence, and great learning. In one sense, my departure, though voluntary and a sad necessity, was not a departure at all, since the knowledge gained as well as so many of the skills, propensities and values inculcated during that time have remained with me.

You are a huge enthusiast of Welsh culture.  What attracts you to this part of the world?

Its invisibility. This is explained best in my Pushcart essay, Bendithion, which can be found here:

Bendithion means “blessings” in Welsh.  What was the reasoning for choosing this title your essay?

Well I had other titles in mind (containing words like trothwyol and anweladwy) but honestly, I thought that this one was the easiest for Americans to pronounce. The idea was to convey that Wales and my liminal experience in it, was a gift, a benison - for which I was grateful.

What was the inspiration for your novel, Felicity and Barbara Pym?

Not long ago, I was asked the same question by the Barbara Pym Society and invited to write a short article for their newsletter. The text of that article, which answers your question, can be found on my Felicity & Barbara Pym Blog at

In the aforementioned novel, how autobiographical is the character, Professor Mallory Cooper?

I will have to refer readers to my interview by New York Times contributing writer -  in which this question is asked and answered, as I cannot better that answer here. 

In the past, how did you balance your thriving academic career, motherhood, and your affiliations with the entertainment industry?

There wasn’t much need for balance, actually, because these vocations/occupations were consecutive, not concurrent. There was a little overlap when I was doing my Master’s degree and teaching and later when I was working in Hollywood and also teaching, but basically, when my children were young, they were my vocation. Period. When they got a little older, I began to do free-lance writing. I then created a consultancy and worked mostly at home. It was only when they were in high school that I began to teach/work/study full time and my hours were compatible with their schedules. They were a priority, no matter how busy any of us were, and we ate dinner together almost every night throughout even their high school years. When they went to university and left home, my writing career took precedence (in time).

What is your writing process and schedule?

What engages me in the art and the act of writing is the companionship of the words themselves. The process depends on the nature and depth of that companionship. In the beginning of any work, when the project and the words are new (and they are new every time) the process seems more like a self-taught class and requires more structure – a time, a place, a set number of words. Little word-dates. Later, when the relationship between the words/material and me deepens and becomes more intimate, the process takes care of itself – I can’t wait to get up in the morning to inhabit the world I am creating. By the time that happens, I am in limerence (in the most positive definition of that word) with that world and no imposition of artificial structure is necessary. It is all self-propelling – the desire to be with the words. 

Who are some authors who inspire you?

I have addressed the authors I admire elsewhere at length – on my blog and in other interviews and guest blogs, so I’ll just mention a few authors whose work I admire and concentrate on the word, “inspire”.

First of all, almost everything I have read in my life has contributed in some way to my own work – including children’s books, which I still read, English Literature from Beowulf onward, some American literature, and not insignificantly Greek, Latin and Hebrew texts of philosophy and theology in the Catholicism and Jewish traditions that I have studied over the years. Having said that, the authors whose writing has recently influenced mine include Antonia White, AS Byatt and Anita Brookner. These are three writers who have near perfect command of a language that describes interior landscape. Beautifully lucent.

With regard to inspiration, that powerful but delicate symbiosis between two minds, and in some cases, two hearts, there is no doubt that my colleague and friend, Dorian Llywelyn, scholar, professor, theologian, Welsh-American Jesuit, bard, musician, and writer of staggering depth, is a singular inspiration to me.

This is a different thing from influence, which is a more static, dissipated, and distant thing. This kind of inspiration takes the form of its origin, in which there is the dynamic of breathing in(to) and breathing out, generating, sustaining life. Inspiro, expiro. It extends beyond the writerly influence – it  breathes new life into the soul. It makes one hungry, restless and resistant – sighted with extra perception and blinded to all but the force of creation - a force of such magic, such seminal power, that it confers a certain obligation on anyone who employs it to do so with reverence.


Father Llywelyn adds a significant intellectual, creative and spiritual dimension to my life and all I write is transformed by that significance. Put simply, I don’t write the same without him as I do with, or rather because of, him. It’s not that I can’t or don’t write (or haven’t written) a good many things without the benefit of this profound connection but I prefer, vastly, the writing that arises from our confluence. I also come away from each encounter with more to write about.


In another interview, I remarked that what initiated my writing was “arrested experience” – that millisecond when suddenly, something just stops you in your tracks and you forget to breathe for a moment. That’s when I write. I write about that something. This is precisely what happens in an encounter with Father Llywelyn and with his writing – arrested experience. I mean, anyone who has a chapter in his book (Toward A Catholic Theology of Nationality) called “The Value of Thisness” that lucidly, elegantly explores “the heart of each person’s existence” is himself a formidable standard of excellence. I like formidable standards.


Do you have advice for novice writers attempting to sell books?

I do: Read everything industry leader Jane Friedman writes on this topic (and others): Also keep book marketing experts Porter Anderson and Kathy Meis close to hand as primary resources in this field.

What is your opinion regarding blogs, social media, and the future of the publishing world?

I honestly don’t know enough about the first two to make any useful comment, or at least none that has not been made before. Regarding the third, the sooner that (some) agents and (most) publishers get over the their clubby, twee, 19th century perception that this is an elite, leisurely gentleman’s profession and realize that they have become a great, creaking, really annoying dinosaur, the better traditional publishing will become. I think that survival for these publishers means a drastic programme of streamlining and creating niches – resulting in fewer companies, smaller lists, better books and faster turnarounds. I’ve been lucky with my publishers and agents, but I know that was a fluke. Too many writers’ experiences, particularly in the last few years, have been the opposite.

Finally, can you share some details about your current projects and plans for the future?

Currently, I have a children’s book with an editor at a large publishing house and another with an agent. I am writing a new one that I can’t talk about right now, which is non-fiction. Then, I am turning the creative part of my PhD dissertation, The Bendithion Chronicles, into a book and the critical part into a couple (or more) scholarly essays.

 There is one other book on the horizon, which I am meant to be writing with someone else based on the letters we exchanged. My agent had a look at some of these last year and thinks it should be the priority.


Harrison Solow Bio:
American writer Harrison Solow has been honoured with multiple awards for her literary fiction, nonfiction, cross-genre writing, poetry and professional writing, most notably winning the prestigious Pushcart Prize for Literature in 2008.  A writer and strategic consultant of rare experience, her work spans Hollywood, Academia, Business, Law and Literature. Dr. Solow is one of the two best-selling University of California Press authors of all time (at time of publication), a Notable Alumna of Mills College where she earned an MFA, and holds the rare distinction of a British PhD in English (Letters) with a critical and creative dissertation “Accepted as Submitted: No Changes” from Trinity Saint David in 2011.

She lectures in English and American Literature, Creative, Nonfiction and Cross Genre Writing, Specific Authors, Science Fiction and American Culture, Professional Writing, Philosophy and Theology at a number of universities, colleges, arts and cultural institutions in the United States, Canada and Great Britain.


A former faculty member at UC Berkeley, she accepted a lectureship in the English Department of the University of Wales in 2004 and was appointed Writer in Residence in 2008. She returned to America in 2009.


Dr. Solow is a strong proponent of the traditional Liberal Arts, the Fine Arts and the Utilitarian Arts as separate and equally respectable entities, an advocate for Wales and a patron of literary endeavours.


She is married to Herbert F. Solow, a director & producer and the former Head of MGM, Paramount and Desilu Studios in Hollywood. She has two sons.


Her latest book is Felicity & Barbara Pym: and


Harrison Solow is available for interviews, lectures and workshops. She can be reached through her manager, Simon Rivkin