Thursday, January 2, 2014

EditorialLee Speaking

2014 is coming in on a hangover, which obviously means 2013 went out with a blast. I have a lot of mixed feelings about the new year, most of them good since the past couple of years haven't been two of my best and flipping the calendar always brings renewed optimism.

In 2012, I lost my mother to cancer. Last year started with a nasty bang when the street attacked me six days into 2013 and shattered my kneecap. Over the past couple of years my back problems have gotten worse, too. I've taken injections, had nerves burned away, tried PT and alternative medical treatments but with little improvement.

One thing that carries me forward into 2014 with momentum, though, is the publishing business I started a little over nine years ago to bring IncrediBoy back into print after his original publisher went out of business. I feared that e-books would probably be the end of the small publishing house like the one I co-own. But the last quarter of this year has, at least, provided me with a respite from that worry.

When I went down with the knee injury, Susan Lindsley's project of her father's literary works also got shelved with it. She could have taken her business elsewhere, but thankfully she chose not to do that. While this book of her father's poetry and other writings won't be released to the general public, Susan's Facebook friends have gotten a taste of the talents of her late father. It's easy to see that writing is in her blood.

Speaking of Susan, her first novel, The Bottom Rail, was one of our fourth-quarter releases after winning the ThomasMax "You Are Published" Contest at the SWA 2013 Workshop. Since its release, the book has been getting a lot of attention.  One of her home-towners has called it the “Milledgeville Peyton Place.” Susan used some events she remembered hearing about in her youth, but has since discovered that some of them involved people who are today’s leaders of business and society.

 “I had no idea who these people were. A lawyer friend, who knew everything that went on in the county, would come out to the country and tell us all sorts of tall tales. So I arranged some of the events to fit into my story.”

Before-publication praise included comments from three of our SWA members. Buzz Bernard called the novel “an old South you won’t forget.” Cappy Rearick, a true Southerner herself, said that The Bottom Rail made Tobacco Road read like a Sunday school lesson. And June McCash, herself a double-award winning Author of the Year, said that The Bottom Rail takes us to the time and rural south of To Kill a Mockingbird, but told from the viewpoint of the Ewells.  Although this is her first published novel, Susan has  authored or edited seven books.

I also had the pleasure of working with Peggy Mercer, who will be teaching poetry and children's writing at our 2014 workshop in the release of her collection of poems and songs entitled Grew Up Loving Elvis. This one was an adventure. Peggy is a true professional -- not that other writers with whom I work are not -- but Peggy has been through every mill of the writing world, been ground up and re-assembled numerous times in the process, and come out stronger for it. She and I fought like cat-and-dog often during the production of the book. And that's one reason you'll find it to be a work of art if you snag a copy. 

Probably the most intense editing work I have ever done was with an author named Robin Medley-Israel as we prepared her Urban Joy for its November release. Pastor Robin is a motivational coach as well as a writer and a pastor, and she had a story to tell about her life . . . a life she was ready to end as a teenager until God spoke to her and intervened. Now she is a spokesperson for "being joy" even though her life has had its share of rain along with its sunshine. And she is willing to talk about all her difficulties quite candidly, from the indignities she suffered form an affair by her adulterous fellow-pastor husband to lecherous stepfather. Robin does more than preach, though -- she goes into the "how to" of "being joy" in spite of all the obstacles. 

And, finally, our last release of 2013 which is probably just now reaching the listings with the online sellers is a relatively short autobiography with the unlikely title of P.O. Box 1106. Author Anna Löwenadler contacted me right in the heart of my busiest time with Susan's and Robin's projects, so I didn't get the chance to look into the story until November. But once I did, I was mesmerized. This girl had such a horrible childhood, and she tells it like it truly was (while carefully avoiding names and the most sordid of details). It's a quick read, and I don't say this often, but it's a book everyone should read, if only to appreciate his or her own upbringing. 

Susan's The Bottom Rail and Peggy's Grew Up Loving Elvis will be contestants for Georgia Author of the Year in their respective categories. Also representing ThomasMax will be Martha Phillips, whose Carved was the first book we released in 2013. It's the sequel to Martha's successful Written on a Rock mystery-romance that won the ThomasMax "You Are Published" contest a few years ago.

And all of the books released to the public, I'm happy to report, have had at least moderate sales success to date. Even P.O. Box 1106 had a few e-book sales within a few days of its release.

~~ Lee Clevenger

Lee is the current President of SWA, an author and co-founder of ThomasMax Publishing in Atlanta, GA.

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