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Imagine a world where the United States' 22 million military veterans created a powerful, secret intelligence network that operated independently of the government to protect their fellow citizens from terrorist threats. Such is the world created by UCF professor Peter Telep in his new thriller, The Secret Corps.

Telep, a UCF alumnus with a master's in English, began writing fan-fiction stories based off Planet of the Apes in third grade, and was encouraged by his English teacher who turned the stories into a book and displayed it on a classroom shelf. He has come a long way since then and is now a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 novels. He has also taught creative writing and scriptwriting at UCF for 15 years.

Telep's most recent work is his independent book, The Secret Corps, released May 22. Although he is certainly not a novice writer by any means, the book took him two years and six months of mental labor, extensive research and an unquantifiable amount of both coffee and peanut butter, which he confesses he eats straight out of the jar with a fork.

"I guess the most surprising thing is that no book is easy," Telep said. "I thought after writing a dozen or more that somehow the process would be more direct or simply go faster. Every book is different, all require answering thousands of questions and developing thousands of ideas."

His book is the first of an upcoming series about four veteran Marines swept up into a murder investigation that threatens all of America, as well as the unbreakable, lifetime bond that forms between soldiers during war, and the ideals of honor, courage and commitment. He is already working on the sequel, The Secret Corps: Wounded Eagle.

Another UCF professor who shares the interest in writing is Susan Hubbard, who holds a master's in creative writing and has been teaching English for 20 years. She has published eight books including the well-known vampire trilogy, The Society of S.

Hubbard's eldest sister, who was a librarian, is the one who introduced Hubbard to literature. She has been writing since she was six years old, but her first attempt at writing a novel was in the fourth grade, which she admits came out terribly. However, she has vastly improved her writing since that first disaster, and now happily replies to fan mail from readers across the globe.

"I've had fun doing book tours and media interviews and all of that, but the best part has been receiving emails and notes from readers from Russia, Germany, Portugal, Vietnam — all over the world, really, as well as from Americans. Every culture has its own vampire tales, and that helped my books' popularity, I think," Hubbard said.

As a graduate student majoring in creative writing, Hubbard initially surmised that success stemmed from meeting standards dictated by the publishing industry, but quickly learned that was not the case.

"Luck, and the illusive nature of the literary marketplace, matter as much as competence and talent. And I'm not sure many standards exist any more. Many poorly written books get published, and I'm not just talking about Fifty Shades of Grey," Hubbard said.

Regardless of the vague, and potentially nonexistent standards of the publishing industry, when asked about advice on how to become a better writer, Telep strongly emphasized the importance of grammar.

"If you want to become a better creative writer, you must focus on all aspects of your craft: plot, dialogue, characterization and so on," he said. "However, the often-overlooked and loathed tool is grammar. My students say, 'I love writing, but hate grammar.' That's like saying I love being a carpenter, but I hate hammers."

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Gabby Baquero is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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