School friends publish novel

Published 10:26 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — It’s a collaboration that started in Chesapeake High School, but took more than a decade to come to fruition.

Now Herschel Jeffrey and Mike Murdock are reaping the rewards of their teen-age literary partnership as their first novel, “The Dragon Ruby” has just come out in print.

“We were very good friends in high school and both into the fantasy genre,” Jeffrey said recently in a phone interview from his home in Point Pleasant, W.Va. “As a result of that we would write short stories back and forth.”

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Those short stories metamorphosed into a book that the two men shopped around to publishing houses extensively the year after they graduated from Chesapeake High in 1996. But at that time there were no takers.

Murdock moved to California. The two high school buddies kept in touch, but seemingly forgot about their writing. Then James A. Rock and Co., a Rockville, Md., publishing house, expressed interest in it.

The friends went back to writing.

“They contacted Mike first and he contacted me,” Jeffrey said. “We had a brief conference with the publishers. We talked about rewrites. Although we loved the original story, we wanted to approach it 10 years later with a more seasoned style.”

It wasn’t that the friends had forgotten about their work, far from it. Both would from time to time get it out and re-read the manuscript.

“More than anything it was nostalgic to read over it and laughed over passages we took pride in,” Jeffrey said.

But now faced with the prospect of publishing, the authors got it out to see what work needed to be done.

“We didn’t really change the direction of the plot, but gave it more foundation, fleshed out more of our characters. … We went back and layered it,” Jeffrey said.

Via email, the friends did about four or five rewrites.

“It was to present it in one voice,” Jeffrey said. “In the original, you could tell who had written which.”

Soon “The Dragon Ruby” will be in local bookstores and became available on and Barnes and Noble’s Web site in mid November.

“At its most basic level, it addresses the principles of good and evil, right and wrong,” Jeffrey said. “It has that escapist value. You know the good guys from the bad guys.”

And how hard was it to get back to a collaboration born in youth?

“We very easily fell back to it,” Jeffrey said. “It was effortless.”