Peachtree City residents have connections to books outside mainstream publishing

Tue, 11/11/2008 - 5:25pm
By: Michael Boylan

Author George C. Lukas used to consider self-publishing to be a black hole where books go and are never seen or heard from again. Artist Yvonne Ford has done work for publishing companies before but was recently asked to illustrate the fourth in a series of self-published children’s books. Both Lukas and Ford are just two examples of people who are getting their work out there.

Lukas, a former special agent with the U.S. Treasury Department, had the idea for his novel, “Honor in the Son,” germinating in his head for over 20 years before settling in to write it. The novel follows Stefano DiTomasso, a man who must work for an organized crime outfit in New York to pay off a debt that his father incurred many years before. What complicates matters for DiTomasso is that he is a catholic priest and the demands being placed on him from the criminal organization keep escalating. DiTomasso and his brother travel to the Florida Keys to avenge a crime committed on a family member and now the brothers are thrust into a violent world of drug smugglers, murderers and crooked cops.

Lukas transferred to Miami in 1981 and saw a lot of crazy things first hand.

“There were murders every day,” Lukas said. “Some 800 people were murdered in Dade County that year and they were all drug related, different groups just wiping each other out.”

Lukas, a Peachtree City resident at least part of every year since 1997, admits that there were some real life events that were colored or changed in his book and that one of the characters in the book certainly has his attitude. While many authors agree with the advice of write what you know, and Lukas certainly knew the area and the era he was writing about, he enjoyed the challenge of writing for the character of Stefano, a priest that will have to murder to save his family.

“One thing that was important to me was that every character have their own voice and their point of view,” Lukas said, adding that in some of the books he reads, the characters all have one voice — the author’s.

The process of writing, when Lukas finally sat down and committed to getting the story on paper, took about six months.

“It was four or five hours a day, every day, with a lot of revisions,” Lukas said. However, the hard part was getting it published.

Lukas went to the library and found a book of agents and publishers and sent out query letters by the dozens.

“I wrote about 150 query letters in all for this book and it was tedious and monotonous,” Lukas said. “I got all of these rejections and it wears on you.”

Lukas did have an agent for a brief period of time, but when the book didn’t sell, he dropped him.

“If it doesn’t sell, you don’t know what the agent did,” Lukas said. The frustration led him to self publishing, where he learned that it was possible that his book could be seen by others and maybe discovered that way. He did his research and went with Author House and after making every decision on how the book would look, he had “Honor in the Son” in his hands.

“It was amazing to be able to hold the book and know that I did it,” Lukas said. “Once I did that, I knew I could do it again.”

He envisions “Honor in the Son,” to be the first of three books, but he doesn’t want to start the next book until this one finds an audience.

His advice for aspiring authors is all about imagination.

“Your imagination is what books are about, not just the words,” Lukas said, adding that spinning the story is what keeps readers interested. “An imagination is all you need.”

With his book, Lukas painted pictures and set the scene with a fast moving and, at times, violent story. For Peachtree City resident Yvonne Ford, her artwork helps the readers see what the authors were describing.

Ford is a freelance artist who has done a lot of illustration and graphic design for Gallopade Publishing and FC&A Publishing, two local companies that have books for nearly every audience.

A graduate of the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Ford started off doing work in the art departments of department stores, illustrating children’s wear. Though she was working with pen and ink back then, she was also in on the ground floor of some computer illustration. Ford was a part of Viewtron, an early on-line service in the 1980s, operated by the Miami Herald, that brought news and images to people who had the right equipment and had paid the subscription fee.

“We had these giant 8x 8 discs with computers that were big and slow,” recalled Ford. “But it was fun.”

As the years passed computers went from tiny screens to the wonders we have today. Computers are all Ford uses today and technology led to one of her recent jobs, illustrating a book called “Stowaway: The San Francisco Adventures of Sara, the Pineapple Cat.”

David Olin Tullis, the publisher of the series, placed an ad looking for an illustrator for the book and Ford received an e-mail with the ad. She guided Tullis to her web site and he liked the look of her illustrations and asked her to illustrate the book. The book was e-mailed to her and she drew the scenes on her computer and e-mailed them back. There was no starting over from square one, or paying for packaging and postage, and no travel involved. In fact, most of Ford’s work can be done without ever going into an office. In addition to her illustrations for Gallopade and FC&A, Ford also does portraits of pets and houses and would like to do ministry work with illustrations for Christian books for children.

Like Lukas, Ford’s work requires some research, like when she draws medical images for some of FC&A’s books, but mostly, it is her imagination that takes the image from her mind and puts it on the page.

For more information on Honor in the Son, visit Honor in the Son is also available at Omega Books in Peachtree City and on

For more information on Yvonne Ford, visit

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