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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on January 16th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 45

The sky's the limit

Local author James T. Lanier self published his first book Finney's First Flight


A good idea can arrive without a moment’s notice. Hopefully when that idea comes, you’ll be ready with pen and paper, as was local author James T. “Tom” Lanier when the idea for his debut book, Finney’s First Flight, came to him.

Lanier’s first book:
James “Tom” Lanier started Team Publishing to self-publish his first book Finney’s First Flight.

“Frankly, the whole idea just popped in my head,” he said. “All the story just started unraveling with all the words starting with ‘F’ in the beginning: ‘Finnegan Fox was a freckled-faced fellow,’ and I thought, ‘That would be fun’—no pun intended.”

The short story, intended for kids around ages 8 or 9 and older, continues with entertaining poetics and whimsical wordplay.

“I do have a lot of fun with that, all the wordplay,” Lanier said. “I call it ‘inspirationally lyrical.’”

The story of Finnegan Fox is inherently inspirational. The young boy, living with his father in a small, preindustrial Scottish village, enjoys tinkering and inventing. He’s seen as strange by the townsfolk—until he takes them all by surprise.

“I do like to encourage people and help them realize their potential,” Lanier said. “Some people get in a rut and put the blinders on and can’t see beyond the daily grind, but we all have so much potential.”

Finnegan’s First Flight isn’t Lanier’s only story; it’s just the first one he’s published, a task that took him a few years from the moment he first penned the tale.

“The story was written in 2009, and of all the stories I have in my filing cabinet, this was the only one that jumped out and said ‘I need to be published!’” he said.

Part of the team:
James Lanier called on the help of illustrator Amber Rose Francis to help make Finney’s First Flight a reality.

Lanier’s first step was to find an illustrator. The style he was looking for to complement the book was pen and watercolor; he just needed a talented artist.

“At the time my daughter Grace was at Hancock taking art with John Hood,” Lanier said. “He said absolutely, hands down, it had to be Amber Rose Francis.”

Francis, based in San Luis Obispo at the time, met with Lanier and took a look at his manuscript complete with stick figure drawings Lanier drew to suggest each scene. She took the manuscript home and started working on it.

“She came back to me in about a month or so with some sketches, and it really blew my mind,” Lanier said. “She had actually visited Scotland where this was based and had actually seen the countryside and got to meet the people, so I think that really helped.”

It took Francis and Lanier a little more than a year to get the illustrations and text on the same page, but when all was finished, Lanier still had to answer the question of how he would get his story to shelves.

“I decided to go the self-publishing route,” he said, “and oh my gosh, the more you learn the more you feel overwhelmed!”

Grab a copy
Copies of Finney’s First Flight are available through James “Tom” Lanier’s publishing company Team Publishing. More info:

Luckily for Lanier, he connected with Stories to Tell Books, a company that helps authors speed up production. The company helps authors make connections with resources—in Lanier’s case, a printer, and they offer professional editing.

“I was really impressed with their simple approach,” he said. “They only do what you need them to do, and they don’t try to push an expensive plan on you if you don’t need it.”

It was the folks with Stories to Tell Books who recommended that Lanier ultimately self publish his book by starting his own publishing company.

“So I created Team Publishing,” he said, “and the whole idea behind ‘team’ is the fact that it took my illustrator, my editing group, and myself to pull together the team and make this thing happen.”

Now that he has a firm foundation to stand on, Lanier has some more ideas brewing.

“The next one that I want to finish up is one that I thought of in 2007,” he said. “It is based in medieval times, and it involves a younger boy, and that book is going to be intended for a younger audience. It won’t have all the wordplay. I want third and fourth graders to be able to read it.”

Lanier won’t restrict himself to writing books for youngsters, though that is a style he enjoys.

 “For one thing, I am working with an audience that is innocent and naïve of the big world,” he said, “and now with the adult and older teen genres, they are expecting so much blood, guts, and gore, and sordid details. I personally don’t enjoy reading that stuff myself, and I don’t want to put it out, so if I’m catering to a crowd that’s not expecting that, it’s a lot more fun.”

Committed to producing more new material for Team Publishing, Lanier will keep releasing books, but he doesn’t see his company as a profit endeavor only. He hopes to help others in the same position he was in when trying to publish his first book.

“Now that I have my publishing company in place, I would like to help other people,” he said. “With Team Publishing, I am hoping to be a portal for other people. I can funnel them to the right people to get their books done as well.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne is part of a team. Contact him at

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