Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tiger Woods IS Golf

There are certain names that just come to be synonymous with their chosen profession. When you think of Academy Award-winning actresses, you think of Meryl Streep. I imagine that when there is a discussion of computers, the name Bill Gates might get mentioned at same point. Who is the first person who comes to mind when you hear the word “golf”? For me, there is no question that the game of golf is equated with the magnificent Tiger Woods. As a lifelong fan of the sport, there is no denying the excitement that Woods brings to every tournament in which he participates. And, if Tiger Woods is on the course, you have to know he is the favorite to win. His absence from the game for the past eight months has been noticeable and his return to competition this week has brought the crowds and the Sports Center coverage that only Tiger Woods can.

Woods left the circuit last year in order to have reconstructive knee surgery and month of rehabilitation. This, of course, after going out in style by winning the U.S. Open despite doctor’s orders not to even swing a club. Everyone wondered how long it would take for the world’s number one player to return to top form. Tiger did not take long to let everyone know that he is once again the man to beat. For his official comeback yesterday, he played to an easy victory at the Accenture Match Play Championship.

At the Prairie Winds Golf Course that provides the setting in all three of my novels, you will not read about many celebrity players like Tiger Woods making their way onto the fairway. Instead, you will meet a cast of unusual characters who form friendships, reveal their flaws, and provide for some fascinating story lines. I hope you will take some time to get to know these men and women through Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey’s Course. Then, please contact me at and let me know what you think should happen to these guys next. Who knows? Maybe one of them will play in the Masters one day!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Want to Improve Relations Between the Sexes? Become a Writer!

There are countless books available that offer advice on how better to communicate with the opposite sex. Whether it’s learning from which planet a particular gender originates the foods that best symbolize men and women, or the ways to decode what a particular comment REALLY means when coming from the mouth of the opposite sex.

If you are not a fan of reading self-help books, couples’ therapists, talk show hosts, and even your mom are ready to give advice on how to improve the quality of communication between men and women. However, I am pleased to report that I found my own way of building bridges with the opposite sex. I stopped talking and instead shared my ideas through my writing.

In an article I recently had published, I explain how my three novels have opened doors of discussion with female readers:

Maybe my fan base is based on the fact that women read more than men. Or maybe it is because the social commentary that I include about American life is appealing to women. Even though many of the characters are male and the common activity is golf, the topics of my books hit home to the everyday people in this country regardless of gender.

So, in my relationship efforts with women, it was the voice coming from my fingers and not my lips that has allowed for me to connect better with the opposite sex. Who was it who said that it’s better to keep your mouth closed and have people think you’re stupid than open it and confirm it?

Please check out the entire article here and email me at to let me know what you think!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teenage Pranks Can Have Serious Consequences

There are few among us who were not a participant in at least one silly prank as a teenager. From the wise decision to waste dozens of rolls of toilet paper by throwing them in a neighbor’s tree to using mailboxes as target practice to the time-honored juvenile practice of sticking a silly note on the back of an unsuspecting teenager, teenagers excel at ridiculous antics. We can hope that most of us grow out of this stage and that we are not still egging houses as we drop off our youngest kid at preschool.

Some of the acts in which young men and women are choosing to engage are no longer being viewed as harmless fun by certain robed members of our judicial system. So, if you are a high school student who is considering a prank or two to consume your free time, please pay attention to these real-life examples of the consequences you may face.

Two boys yelled “Fire in the hole,” threw their soda at the same drive-thru employee who had just handed them the beverage, and then wisely broadcast the incident on YouTube. They were charged with battery and were forced to air an apology on the same video sharing network.

A Connecticut teenager decided to bring her pony to high school one day. I guess that’s a spin on the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” story. She was suspended from school for ten days, charged with creating a disturbance, accused of creating the circumstances for a “possible riot,” and told that she would not be allowed to attend her prom.

In my second novel, Finish Line, teenage boys Justin and Keith decide to vandalize the home of an elderly neighbor with whom they had endured some unfriendly exchanges. To pay for the substantial bill of damages, the young men are sent to work at the Prairie Winds Golf Course for the summer. While there, the two learn valuable lessons about hard work, discipline, and the difficult nature of human relationships. There may not be any embarrassing videos or disruptive ponies, but the lessons Justin and Keith learn as a result of their actions are just as relevant and memorable.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Celebrities Heighten the Public’s Interest in Golf

Walk onto any golf course in the world and you will find the perfect environment on which to make wonderful sociological observations. You may find the group of young professionals who drink a few too many beers and talk about their wild weekend nights. There will be the foursome of retired gentlemen who complain about the City Council and the ridiculous property tax hike it just passed. You may even spot a few dads walking the course with their young sons and daughters in hopes that a passion for the game of golf will be passed down to the next generation. But, what group is becoming an increasingly common sight on many of the nation’s premier golf courses? Celebrities! Perhaps you will not find Bill Murray or Jack Nicholson carrying their clubs around the Prairie Winds Golf Course that provides the backdrop in my novels, but their love for golf has certainly raised the sport’s profile among the general population.

Need proof that celebrities have increased interest in golf? The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am attracted more than 4.3 million viewers in 2007, more than all but two other golf tournaments up to that point in the season even though it is a minor tournament. The reason for the high ratings is the interest in the celebrities who participate. Golf Digest now publishes an annual list of Hollywood’s Top 100 Golfers. We are not only interested in the dating habits and latest diets of celebrities … we also want to know their handicap!

Politicians have a long history of adding their own brand of celebrity to the golf course. Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, Dwight Eisenhower and others are known for their use of a few hours on the golf course as a way of releasing stress that comes with the most powerful office in the world. As President Clinton once said, "The great thing about golf is that even the bad days are wonderful." Our new president is known to relax on the basketball court instead of the golf course, so perhaps my beloved sport of choice will not have the spotlight for the next few years.

The fictional Prairie Winds Golf Course serves as the stage on which my characters share the details of their lives. They may not be celebrities, but their stories are still fascinating and have much to offer the readers.
Please visit my website to learn more about all three of my books. I hope you will read Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey’s Course and then let me know what you think!

Use of St. Louis as a Backdrop for My Novels

I am pleased to announce that I recently had an article published through several online directories which details why I incorporate my hometown into the novels that I write. I grew up in St. Louis and call it my home to this day. I am proud that my three books have featured both St. Louis and my passion for golf. It means a lot to me to be able to showcase this wonderful Midwestern city, as St. Louis has shaped my values and my interest in writing.

Here is an excerpt from the recently-published piece:

In St. Louis, the corporate folks have blended with the people of the land...those who make their living from agricultural pursuits. Shirts and ties mix well with jeans and boots. And, almost everyone comes together to root for the city's sports icons. Nationally recognized broadcasters, politically connected bluebloods, and scholastic geniuses have all called St. Louis their home.

Because of its proximity to the center of the country, almost everyone who has flown in a plane has had a layover in the heartland of America. Even during this briefest of visits, exposure to any personality from the "city slicker" to the "country bumpkin" is certainly possible. Regardless of who you meet in St. Louis, you can rest assured that the greeting will be warm and friendly.

Please check out the entire article, “The City of St. Louis Provides Perfect Literary Backdrop,” and share with me any reaction you may have. If you are from St. Louis, I would love to hear your memories and thoughts on our shared city. You can reach me directly at

Monday, February 9, 2009

When Frustrations with City Hall Lead to Violence

I am sure that, for all of us, there have been instances over which we want to scream at those guys at City Hall. Maybe your house has been zoned out of the school district for which you moved to that neighborhood in the first place. Is the City Council advocating the building of a new Wal-Mart over the very location where you like to take your morning walks? Perhaps you are just angry that the same pothole has been creating problems in front of the local grocery store for over a year now. How many of us actually get involved in the political process when confronted with these issues? I imagine that, more often than not, we keep our complaints behind the closed doors of our homes and only our unlucky family members get to hear our rants over the dinner table.

In February of last year, a tragic event occurred just outside of my hometown of St. Louis, in Kirkwood, Missouri. A gunman by the name of Charles Lee “Cookie” Thornton entered City Hall and fatally shot five people while also leaving the mayor in critical condition before being killed by responding police officers. Thornton and the City Council had a long and tense history, with Thornton twice being convicted of disorderly conduct during public meetings. He believed that he was being unfairly persecuted by the government, as he had received multiple tickets for parking his commercial truck in his neighborhood. Whatever Thornton’s frustrations may have been, his violent revenge was certainly not the right solution.

In my new book, Tuey’s Course, readers will follow the fictional story of a man who finds himself in a similar situation to that of Mr. Thornton. The book addresses the racial and class divisions that are often at play in these political situations. And, as with my previous two novels, the Prairie Winds Golf Course provides the consistent backdrop and supporting cast of characters. Please click here to purchase Tuey’s Course. After you have finished the book, I hope you will contact me to let me know what you think

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Creating Characters That Leave an Impression

When I reached that inevitable midlife moment, I decided to take my life down a different course (appropriately enough!) and turn to writing. Through my three published novels, I have tried to deliver a message about our society through the voices and actions of a series of characters. Brought together by my love for the wonderful game of golf, the assorted personalities who gather at the Prairie Winds Golf Course in St. Louis each offer a unique perspective on who we are and how we relate to one another.

I spent some time recently thinking through many of the men and women who have been created through the pages of my books, and my thoughts quickly turned to the readers who I have been fortunate enough to have enjoy my work. Has there been a particular character that has stood out in your mind, either for positive or negative reasons? Is there is a person about whom you are still thinking, and you would like to know the latest developments in his life? Or, maybe you just want some answers to pieces of a personality that you think are still missing.

If you have read Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and/or Tuey’s Course, I would love to hear your thoughts about the characters I have created! Are you drawn to the African American man who cannot catch a break in the power structure that exists in his town? What about the cancer patient who uses his illness to teach young men about maintaining a fighting spirit and strong work ethic? How did some of the more nefarious characters fare once behind bars?

Let me know who struck you. Your input will be valuable to me as I move forward with future books and I may even use some of your suggestions to create new dialogue to post on this blog. Please contact me at

Monday, February 2, 2009

Strong Characters and a Golf Course are a Perfect Combination

I have enjoyed the opportunity that my three published novels have had to bring together my passion for the game of golf and the enjoyment I get out of developing really strong, memorable characters. As anyone who has spent time on a golf course knows, the storyline that often unfolds goes well beyond discovering a person’s handicap or ability to choose just the right iron for any given shot. The golf course is also a place that people go to make multimillion-dollar business deals, discuss the latest political appointments, or participate in the less-becoming pastimes of drinking excessively and avoiding whatever may be going on at home. In all three of my books, I have worked to create compelling personalities that play into some of these golfing dynamics.

When you read the trilogy of Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey’s Course, you will be introduced to a variety of people who I hope will stick with you long after you finish the last page. There is a corrupt businessman whose world of murder, perversion, and a fascination with one particular genocidal dictator is slowly revealed. You will meet a musician displaced by the disaster of Hurricane Katrina whose reception by the regulars at the golf course may force you to examine personal discomforts or your own desire to challenge to certain stereotypes. And, there is a man of little means who takes his fight for justice to the unforgiving powers of City Hall. Introducing such characters to my readers, whether they be endearing or repulsive in their nature, is one of the most important aspects of my writing.

If you have not started your journey to Prairie Winds Golf Course through my novels, I hope that you will give them a try.

If you have read one or more of the books and have some feedback for me on any aspect of my writing, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to contact me at I look forward to hearing from you!

St. Louis Author Hangs With Mark Twain

Some say that if you go back far enough in time everyone could very well be related to each other. Please don’t tell that to my “Aunt Marie.” She is now a retired schoolteacher in her late eighties. I don’t know if she would have enough time to research all of those connections.

Our family historian has been my dear “Aunt Marie.” She has spent the better part of her life researching county records, state documents, gravestones, periodicals, and anything else that is part of public knowledge. She has spent virtually her entire adult life composing the family tree. What she turned up in our gene pool was surprising to all of us that now live several generations away from our ancestors.

So as to not sound boring, I’ll simply cut to the chase. As the story goes a Colonel William Casey was born in Frederick County, Virginia in 1756. He migrated to Kentucky and had many fights with the Indians over the years as the property was being settled. Through adulthood he was appointed a county judge and served in local politics. Rumor has it that he was a mountain of a man, very kind, and the father of four daughters. This is the start of what I’ll call a mighty oak with several enduring branches.

His third daughter was named Polly. His fourth daughter was named Margaret, but nicknamed Peggy. The two branches of the tree that those two formed are what this article is about. They traveled through Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Iowa.

William Casey died in 1816 after serving in local politics in Adair County, Kentucky. He never lived to see his great grandson which had been placed on a limb of the family tree by his youngest daughter, Peggy. Born in Florida, Missouri in 1835, William Casey’s great grandson was christened Samuel L. Clemens…none other than Mark Twain.

Samuel Clemens was born roughly thirty-five miles inland from Hannibal, Missouri which was where he was raised during his younger years. Being from the Midwest it is quite believable that Casey’s youngest daughter Peggy and her siblings traveled up and down the states that were bordering the Mississippi River. Mark Twain made that tributary legendary in several of his tales.

As an added sidelight “Aunt Polly” was a recognizable character in Tom Sawyer. In all likelihood that was a name that Twain had heard his mother say often as he was growing up. To me the person identified as “Aunt Polly” would be my great, great, great, great grandmother.

At any rate the rest is history as far as Mark Twain goes. He is a legend in American folk yore as an author, philanthropist, statesman, humorist, and traveler.

I doubt that William Casey even cares that his great, great, great, great, great grandson wrote a novel after he turned fifty. That was the limb of the tree that his third daughter Polly helped to form. And I doubt if it matters that his far-removed relative grew up in modern-day St. Louis…only a driver and an eight-iron away from the Mississippi River.

But don’t tell that to my “Aunt Marie.” When she turned over all of the family tree information to me she said, “You know, Jim, you’ve done something that I’ve always dreamed about doing but never found the time.”

Naively, I asked, “What’s that?”

She said, “You wrote a book. I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Something tells me that maybe she should start with William Casey. He’s the mighty oak in this tale and she’s on one of those limbs too.

James Ross has published a series of books that use the wonderful city of St. Louis as a backdrop. Lifetime Loser (2007), Finish Line (2008) and Tuey's Course (2009) all present a colorful cast of characters that come together on the Prairie Winds Golf Course. Situated high atop the Mississippi river bluffs on the east side of St. Louis the author uses his personal knowledge of St. Louis to fully incorporate the city into the plots of his novels. Residents of and visitors to the Gateway City will appreciate the author's fine storytelling and how he highlights his home city. All three novels from James Ross can be found at or through his personal web site:

Author James Ross

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Finish Line"

About the Book:

After getting caught committing a petty act of vandalism, two teenage boys land summer jobs at Prairie Winds Golf Course on the east side of St. Louis. Follow the adventures…

of Justin Ventimiglia and Keith Puccio as they explore a slice of life that they never knew existed. Observe the special relationship between adolescent boys, a cast of grown golfing misfits, and a young man battling the demons of cancer.

Explore the heart-wrenching relationship between an impressionable child and a pseudo Big Brother. Witness the summertime ride of the two youths in a poignant story about life and death. See them as they develop a love for the game of golf and apply those lessons to the challenges of life.

Experience the reactions of Justin and Keith to the vices of the world such as drinking, smoking, and gambling and watch how their knowledge molds their character. Take the journey with them as they battle a dysfunctional family situation, exposure to a life-threatening disease, and the vices of the world as they live a summer to remember.

"Tuey’s Course"

About the Book:

Racial tension had been building for years near Prairie Winds Golf Course on the east side of St. Louis. In 2007, black businessman, Tuey O’Tweety faced the brunt of the discrimination.

Can the game of golf resolve the issue?

Life becomes even more difficult for Tuey when the frustrations of harassment become a daily nuisance. Corrupt politicians, manipulated city hall employees, and hypocritical community leaders add to the unrelenting aggravation.

Through an odd connection Tuey lands with an eclectic group of golfing misfits. Daily visits to the golf course expose him to an unfamiliar slice of life. An unlikely player leads him down a seemingly innocent path. The world of black and the world of white become intertwined in a world of intricate fantasy.

Join head golf pro J Dub Schroeder and his brother Curt, as they open the clubhouse doors of Prairie Winds Golf Course to a man trying to find his way out of an impoverished situation. One by one a Catholic priest, greedy banker, local farmer, retired luxury car dealer, Japanese businessman, evangelistic preacher and college football referee weave their lives into Tuey’s plight. Explore the convoluted path through the fairways of Prairie Winds Golf Course that has become “Tuey’s Course.”