Archive for August, 2008

SCBWI Southern Breeze Authors Release New Books From NewSouth

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Lisa Harrison

NewSouth Books’ Junebug Books imprint recently published two new titles by Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) members: In the Company of Owls by Peter Huggins, and Space by Roger Reid. These books join Reid’s 2005 title Longleaf and A Yellow Watermelon by Ted Dunagan as the latest works by Southern SCBWI chapter Southern Breeze authors to be released from NewSouth.

In the Company of Owls tells an exciting story of courage and the triumph of family loyalty in the face of danger. After Aaron Cash and his father discover their neighbor Morgan Blackburn’s illegal still, Blackburn resorts to increasingly violent acts to force the Cash family to sell their land. Aaron must ultimately use his wits–and his BB gun–to defend his family, an act that leaves both Aaron and the reader to consider its many implications. Of In the Company of Owls, poet Tony Crunk writes, “[Aaron’s] story, and Huggins’s graceful telling of it, sneak up as quietly as a spring shower, but startle as fiercely as a copperhead strike.”

In Space, fourteen-year-old Jason is recruited by his cantankerous friend Stephen to help find which of a group of gathered scientists killed Stephen’s father. Adding to the suspense is a mysterious Man in a Red Flannel Shirt who keeps appearing wherever Jason happens to be. In the climactic scene, Jason uses his scientific knowledge to escape a pursuing gunman in the woods surrounding the real-life Conrad Swanson Observatory. Graham Salisbury says of Space, “Another Roger Reid winner for young mystery lovers. Space is packed with fascinating science, action, compelling story questions, and an ending that rockets off the page. Loved it!”

Southern Breeze named author Ted Dunagan’s A Yellow Watermelon, published earlier this year, a “Soaring Success.” In the best Southern literary tradition, A Yellow Watermelon explores poverty and racial segregation through the eyes of an innocent boy; Ted Dillon wanders through the cotton fields, streams, churches, whiskey stills and his own heart and mind as he struggles with the hypocrisy and wonders of his small world, amid the lingering effects of the Great Depression. Yet with beguiling prose and an ear for the way people speak, the author brings to life a story so engaging and heartfelt that it will resonate with young and old. Kirkus Reviews calls A Yellow Watermelon “a memorable, generous-hearted tale.”

NewSouth Books is a general trade publisher based in Montgomery, Alabama, with a growing list of fine literary fiction–for adults and young adults–and non-fiction.

Ted Dunagan Talks A Yellow Watermelon with Darlington Middle School

Thursday, August 28th, 2008 by Lisa Harrison

NewSouth author Ted Dunagan enjoyed a visit with students from Darlington Middle School for the school’s second annual author visit day on August 22. Students read Ted’s debut novel A Yellow Watermelon for their required summer reading. Set in 1948, the young adult novel A Yellow Watermelon explores poverty and racial segregation through the eyes of two young boys, one black and one white, who bond while working in the cotton fields and go on to free their town from a corrupt businessman.

Ted discussed the themes of his book with the students and talked about the writing process. After his presentation, Ted and the students enjoyed watermelon and moon pies, foods featured in the book.

“We selected A Yellow Watermelon because it is a new book by a new author,” said Ken Wempe, dean of students and English teacher. “Published this year, this coming-of-age story is both compelling and wonderfully written in a simple, subtle style. Dunagan used his novel as a jumping off point to discuss its themes and the writing process.”

A Yellow Watermelon is available for order from NewSouth Books, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Jerry Wexler, Godfather of Muscle Shoals Music, Remembered

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

C. S. Fuqua, author of Music Fell on Alabama, offered this remembrance of record producer Jerry Wexler:

Jerry Wexler is known to many around the Shoals as the “Godfather of Muscle Shoals Music.” Wexler died on August 15, 2008, at age 91 of complications related to congestive heart failure. Had it not been for Wexler, Muscle Shoals may never have become known as the “Hit Capital of the World.”

In 1966, Rick Hall of Fame Studios alerted Wexler to the talent available in the Shoals by pitching to Wexler the song “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Impressed by the ability and special sound of Shoals’ musicians, Wexler then took Wilson Pickett to Fame to record Pickett’s first Top 10 hit, “Land of 1,000 Dances,” but, by the time Wexler took Aretha Franklin to record at Fame, friction had developed between Wexler and Hall that threatened to destroy the relationship. An altercation between Franklin’s husband and Hall caused Franklin to return to New York before completing scheduled recording, but Wexler still wanted to use the Fame rhythm section musicians for Franklin, so he asked Hall if he could take them to New York to record the King Curtis album King Curtis Plays the Great Memphis Hits. Hoping to salvage the business relationship with Wexler, Hall sent the section to New York, and Wexler promptly used the section with Franklin. Wexler later guaranteed enough work for the rhythm section musicians to enable them to leave Hall’s Fame and open the Muscle Shoals Sound studio.

Although Wexler eventually moved most of his recording business to Miami, Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound had by then established solid reputations that would continue to draw major acts to the Shoals to record for years to come. You can find more on Wexler and his connection to the Shoals in Music Fell on Alabama and in the Times-Daily extended obituary “Magic Man”.

Music Fell on Alabama is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Randall Williams Featured on APTV’s Face to Face Sunday, August 24

Friday, August 22nd, 2008 by Brian Seidman

NewSouth editor-in-chief Randall Williams speaks with host Lori Cummings on Alabama Public Television’s Face to Face show on Sunday, August 24. The show will air at 2 pm and 11 pm.

In the conversation, Randall and Lori talk about the nature of independent publishing, and about NewSouth’s mission in publishing books that inform our audience about the Southern region. Lori asks about the publishing process from an author’s point of view, and Randall gives tips about how an author can prepare their manuscript for submission.

Learn more about Face to Face at the show’s website.

Flash Fiction by Gerald Duff in Clapboard House Magazine

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 by Ashley

The online magazine Clapboard House features this month a “flash fiction” story by NewSouth author Gerald Duff. In Duff’s story “Win/Place/Show,” a teenage boy and his aunt and uncle gamble at a dog-racing track in Arkansas. While the boy longs for Florida, and something else he cannot quite articulate, his aunt spends the afternoon considering her husband’s infidelity and the precarious nature of human relationships.

From the author:

When I lived in Memphis for several years, at times I accompanied a friend to the greyhound racetrack across the Mississippi River from the city called Southland Greyhound. I’m not a gambler or a lover of dogs, but I liked to watch the people who went to the races in West Memphis, where the track is located. It came to me one hot steamy night at the dogtrack that the people who bet on the greyhounds did their choosing of the likely winners by either studying past performances of the animals as reported in a track publication or they looked at the parade of dogs before each race and placed their bets upon the basis of estimating the energy and promise of individual animals or they decided, as I did, by choosing on the basis of what the dogs were named. My way was the least likely way to win, of course. But how can you resist picking a dog named “RoverGotOver” as opposed to “My Rusty?”How you bet (whether to win, place, or show) speaks to your boldness, your optimism, your chance-taking, your character. Gambling is about an act of faith and belief, often betrayed.

In my story, which is about marital betrayal, heartbreak, and the dispelling of dreams, the way the characters place their bets and speak to each other is the tip-off to their natures. I wanted to show this situation, find a way to give it tension, and give it resolution, all in about three pages. My problem was one of working within compression, setting a scene, sketching an environment, and having one character show some significant change. If a work of fiction succeeds, the reader must feel some meaningful change has taken place. Aristotle said it, and I believe it

I decided to use present tense, rather than past, in order to heighten immediacy, and to shift to future tense at the end of the story to show the significant change to come. I used three characters and presented the environment of the moment by having the crowd at the dogtrack scream with one voice, as their hopes ride on the racing success of a group of dumb animals.

One character had to show change, and that I attempted to show by having the nephew in the story forecast by the narrator as lying in bed at his aunt’s and uncle’s home listening to these “kind” and “loving” relatives fight over the betrayal and loss of trust between them. I made the narrator completely omniscient in point of view and utterly cold in describing what takes place. No one gets any sympathy.

I meant for the story to capture something of the ethos of Memphis and the New South: that of corporations, commerce financial and emotional, and the breakdown of old verities and familial relationships. I spent as much time writing this story as I typically do in writing one ten times longer.

Gerald Duff is the author of the acclaimed novel Coasters (NewSouth, 2001), which chronicles the ups and downs of the middle-aged, divorcee Waylon Mcphee’s move back home to the company of his widowed father. Duff’s recent short story collection Fire Ants (NewSouth, 2007) juxtaposes striking characters struggling for redemption against the back drop of various Southern locales, from the marshes and pine barrens of East Texas to the row houses of Baltimore, and in time from the Civil War to the present day. The Texas Institute of Arts and Letters named Fire Ants a finalist for the Jesse Jones Award for Best Book of Fiction in 2007.

Read the full text of “Win/Place/Show” at the Clapboard House website. Clapboard House is an online literary journal that samples short stories and poetry that depict the South, its culture, and its people.

Both Fire Ants and Coasters are available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite online and local booksellers.