When Greg Banks of Wheelman Press published my short novel, "Key West" in January, 2013, it was the beginning of one of the most enjoyable creative ventures of my life. I had never planned to write a novel. "Key West" was a screenplay. I was pitching it around L.A. when I fell in touch with a manager who was in partnership with Greg. "Turn it into a novel," the manager said. "We'll publish it." I hesitated for, well, maybe for three seconds. I knew it was something I wanted to do. I never actually met Greg. He was located in Georgia. Everything was arranged over email and phone.
Surprisingly, the book began selling (some) right away. I remember sending an email during the first month after Greg published it, asking, "Has anyone, besides ten of my friends, bought the book?" It had already sold about 50 copies. Later, when Greg began sending me payments in the hundreds of dollars I couldn't force the dumb smile off my face. When I visited my partner in the project, Robert Silk (It was his original magazine article that started the whole concept, and his research that has shaped the story throughout) in Florida, and saw the book on a shelf in an actual Key West book store, I felt proud/happy/humbled...and about seven other emotions all mixed together.
Coming from a seafaring family, I imagined the "Wheelman" of Wheelman Press related to a ship's wheel. It was not until a year later that I learned the truth. The "Wheelman" of Wheelman Press was a referrence to the wheelchair Greg had been using to get around since he was a child.
In the Spring of 2014 Greg sent an email stating the very sad fact that he had been in and out of the hospital, twice in recent months, with complications from pneumonia and a respiratory infection, that he could no longer work, and had to close his company. He would be sending an amended contract, he said, returning all rights to me, so I could find a new publisher or publish it myself. I looked at the words for a long time...publish it myself. Hmmm.
I emailed back asking Greg if he could get me all of his distribution contacts. I began to like the idea of publishing myself, but only if I could also get the book onto the shelves of bookstores the way he did. He forwarded a gold mine of business contacts and details, and even helped transfer his existing editions (by then "Key West" also included the three 'Companion Episodes' which Greg had published as kindle-only novellas) over to my new Azzurri Publishing accounts.
So, technically Azzurri Publishing has existed since last Summer, but those editions still have the Wheelman Press imprint.
Coming soon, though, will be several new titles and editions unique to my own new company, Azzurri Publishing. In early April, 2015 the original "Key West" novel will be published as a "Special Edition," which will include a prequel short story titled, "The King of the Keys." A month later, in early May, the three Companion Episodes (which I always intended to fit together as a single second novel) will be published under one cover for the first time.
Two months after that, in July, 2015, I will be publishing a short novel titled, "It Is What It Is." I want to think that "It Is..." will eventually be my own next film a couple years later, but it's way too early to say that, so I can't say that (did I actually say that? I can't say that).
There will be other books, not all by myself, coming after that. I plan to publish books by a few other people eventually.
Azzurri is not the first publishing company I have been a part of. Once upon a time, my friend Smitty published magazines and small books under the compnay name, Box Dog Press. The name Box Dog Press came from our completely crazy Junior Varsity Basketballl Coach in tenth grade. He once diagrammed a play - a full-court press, which he called the 'box-dog press' - with seven players on the court. The "Seven-man Box Dog Press," we called it. He never did figure out how to sneak the extra two players onto the court without the referee noticing.
So, since "Azzurri" is named after the Italian National soccer team (Gli Azzzurri), both of these publishing companies have had sports-related names. Box Dog went on to release music and videos ("Dog Tapes"). Azzurri will get back to film prduction in another year or two.
In the mean time, I just want to dedicate the official launch of the publishing company to Greg Banks and Wheelman Press. There are few things that happen in life that are 100% positive. The year-and-a-half that I spent working with and associated with Greg, will remain a period of time I will always think of fondly, and then sadly. If it weren't for Greg - the "Wheelman" - there would be no Azzurri Publishing.
February 16, 2015