Tag: author

Former professor writes book about life as musician

by Victoria De Souza

For Cary Banks, music has been an important part of his life. Now he is sharing his story with others in his new book, “Almost a Professional.”

Banks, who was born in Big Spring, Texas, says that he was inspired to become a musician at an early age.

“I was inspired to become a professional musician when I saw The Beatles for the first time in 1964,” remembers Banks.

After graduating from high school, Banks moved to Lubbock, Texas, to enroll at Lubbock Christian College, now known as Lubbock Christian University.

After spending a few semesters in college, Banks decided to follow his dream and hit the road as a musician.

“After leaving LCC, I enrolled in the ‘University of Hard Knocks,’ which means that I went on the road to try to make a life playing music,” Banks said, “and there I was off and on for 25 years, traveling around the world.”

During the early 1980s, Banks joined The Maines Brothers Band, which included brothers Lloyd, Donnie, Kenny, and Steven Maines, along with their sister LaTronda Maines, Jerry Brownlow, Randy Brownlow and Banks. The band plays Americana music, now known as Texas Country.41WlXFMFaoL

In the early 1990s, when the band slowed down, Banks became part of the faculty at South Plains College as a music professor in the Creative Arts Department.

Bringing his real-life experiences to the classroom, Banks worked for 23 years as a professor at SPC, including nine spent as the chairperson of the Creative Arts Department.

“Everything I learned in the world about being a professional musician and the music business prepared me to be a teacher,” said Banks.

While working at SPC, Banks was responsible for the establishment of the “Thursday Nite Live” show and was in charge of the event for 15 years.

Since retiring, he has spent time performing music and writing his book. He said that the idea for writing a book came about from the interest of many students and friends who wanted to know about his life on the road.

“People have always asked about how it is being a professional musician and being on stage with many talented artists,” explained Banks.

The book shares many stories of an artist focusing on his music, his faith in God and, by default, a bit of West Texas music and musicians.

“A lot in the book is my early years in the Church of Christ, playing football, baseball, and picking up music,” said Banks.IMG_9836

After a three-year process of putting stories together, Banks said that he hopes sharing his stories will inspire people with all the angles of his experiences as an entertainer.

“The book shows the good, the bad and the ugly of being an entertainer and what actually happens out in the industry,” mentioned Banks.

“Almost a Professional” will be available for purchase on Amazon starting on Oct. 1. Also, it will be available to purchase on Oct. 17 at a book signing event at Caprock Winery in Lubbock, Texas.

Banks also will be having a book signing event at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 in Tom T Hall in the Creative Arts Building on the Levelland campus.

“I have a story to tell, and this is my story,” said Banks.

Romance author shares passion for writing at book signing

Jodi Thomas always dreamed of becoming a New York Times best-selling author.

Thomas came to South Plains College’s Library In Levelland on Nov. 12 and opened her speech with the question, “How many of you are interested in becoming writers?” After a show of hands, Thomas said “I never quit writing, because I didn’t want God to say, ‘if you would have written one more book, you would have hit big.’”

She told the audience that she estimates that she has about 20 million books in print. She explained that two things made it easy for her to be a writer.

“One is I have a very loose grip on reality,” said Thomas, adding that she has daydreamed ever since she was a little girl. “The second thing that made it easy for me to become a writer is I come from a long line of liars.”

She told a short story about her uncle who will have a fender bender and by the time he has told the story 10 times, he is saying that it was a neardeath experience. Before Thomas began telling about her journey, she said, “I am a story teller; I am not trying to write a great American novel.”

Thomas then described her childhood, saying, “I am the daughter of a father who was a bus driver and a mother who checked groceries,” Thomas said.

She went on to explain that both of her parents read all of the time. However, her first challenge she had to overcome was that she did not read until the fourth grade. One of her teachers had spotted her learning disability and sent her to a special summer school in Amarillo, which is where she is from.

“Now, when you learn to read after the fourth grade, you don’t catch up immediately,” Thomas said. She explained that she caught up by her junior year in high school.

“I do not look at dyslexia as a handicap,” Thomas said. “I look at it as a blessing. For four years, I sat in a classroom and couldn’t read. I made up stories about everybody, and my imagination might have not grown as great if I hadn’t had that disability.”

She paused before adding, “When hard times hit, there’s always a blessing.”

By the time Thomas was a junior in high school, her dad was blind and could not work. She explained that she and her siblings had to go get jobs because her mother could not make a living sacking groceries.

“I had very little interest in school,” Thomas said. “I graduated from high school in the bottom fourth of my class.”

One of her goals was to buy a Camaro, so she saved as much money as she could for one. However, during her senior year of high school, she had to take a remedial English class. In that class, there was a boy named Thomas Koumalats.

“I remember thinking, if lightning didn’t strike that guy, I was going to marry him,” Thomas said. She found out that he was going to college, so she decided to take the money she had saved for a Camaro and go to college too.

“The only place that would let me in was Amarillo College,” she said. “We’d sit in the library and hold hands under the table.”

Two years later, they were still dating and both decided to go to Texas Tech University. Not knowing what to major in, her mother suggested she major in home economics, so she did. Two years later, during their senior year, Thomas Koumalats was drafted to the Vietnam War. Wanting to live together before he went off to war, they got married after they had graduated.

“As soon as he got out of the Army, we went back to school to get our masters,” Thomas said.

By the time she went back to college, she knew that she did not want to work in home economics. So, she decided to be a family counselor. After 18 months, she got her degree in marriage and family counseling. Because of a man who welcomed her into his practice, she did not have to set one up. After six months, she decided that family counseling was harder than teaching home economics. So, she went back to teaching at a high school and at Amarillo College.

Thomas and her husband bought a house and had a couple of kids. However, her dream of being a writer was still there.

“I began to write, Saturday mornings, a few hours at school, and it became slowly a passion,” she explained. “The stories were coming faster than I could write them. I will never live long enough to write all the books I want to write.”

She advised that the best thing to do if you want to become a writer is to take master classes, adding that “James Patterson has an excellent one.”

Thomas entered several writing contests and took several writing classes. However, she got her big start when she attended a convention. Her husband heard about the national Romance Writers of America Convention that was being held in Dallas.

“We did not have the money for me to go to Dallas and spend the weekend,” Thomas said. Her husband told her, ‘we will put it on the credit card.’”

“When I checked in, they had given me a name tag that said writer, and it was like I had been an alien all my life and I had found my home planet,” Thomas said.

The last day she was there, she got a 10minute interview with a New York editor. Thomas told the editor that her book was about the Civil War, and before she could finish, the editor interrupted and said that they were not buying Civil War. So, Thomas started telling about another book she had written about early Texas during the bloody years.

The editor then asked, ‘how soon can you ship it to me?’ “I said, I’ll mail it before I go to sleep,” Thomas said.

She did not hear back from the editor all summer. Finally, while preparing for a lecture, she got a call from the editor who told her that they wanted to buy her book. There was a problem, though. Her legal name, Jodi Koumalats, would not fit on the book cover. Needing a pen name, she decided to take her husband’s first name as her last, Jodi Thomas.

Thomas’s career kicked off after her first book. She sold five books within the first 15 months. Her third book became a national best seller, which meant Thomas had to write full time. With her husband helping out with dishes and putting the kids to bed, Thomas was able to have more time to write at night.

Thomas has published 50 books and is working on book 51.

“They’re going to have to pull the pen from my hand to get it in the casket,” Thomas said, explaining that she will never stop writing.

Romance author finds ideas through daily living

Jodi Thomas says she has been telling stories ever since she was a young girl.

South Plains College is hosting the New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author at the Library on the Levelland Campus on Nov. 12 to speak and sign her new book, “Mistletoe Miracles.”

Thomas’s childhood was very creative.

“My mother would sit down as soon as I got home and ask me what I saw on my way home,” recalls the Amarillo author. “I would tell her all these things, and she would ask, ‘Reality or story?’ She was teaching me to see the difference between reality and fiction. But she never said, ‘You’re lying.”

Thomas, who had two younger sisters and a brother, says her job at night was to tell them stories. She says that she has always wanted to tell stories, but “I didn’t think I’d be able to write, because English was my weakest subject in school. I am not good with commas and grammar.”

Thomas attended Texas Tech University, where she earned a degree in Family Studies. She was honored by the University, along with her brother, as Distinguished Alumni in 2002.

“People say you don’t use your degree much after you graduate,” Thomas said, “but you use your degree every day. Home economics taught me things that I put in books.”

She also said that family studies helped her understand the complex structure of family life and situations.

Thomas got married during her senior year at Texas Tech and became a teacher. She later had children, which is why she started writing, because she wanted to help save for her children’s college education. However, being a full-time teacher and a mother of two boys, she wondered what was going to be her drive to make her write books. She said her goal was to write one book to pay for one year’s worth of college.

She had attended every conference she could find, to learn about writing. At one of those, she bought a t-shirt that said, “New York Times best seller in training,” which she wore often when she would write.

Thomas entered a local contest, with participants expected to write the first chapter of a book from one of eight categories, such as mystery, children, and love. She wrote a chapter for every category and didn’t win in any of them.

Discouraged that she could not win even a local contest after years of conferences, she was ready to quit. She went out walking and came across a quote that read, “Triumph comes through perseverance.”  That encouraged her to push on. One of the chapters would later be included in a book that received a national award.

“From the time I have the first idea (for a story), it’s usually two years until I see the book come out,” Thomas said.

  However, she says she also works on other books at the same time.

Thomas likes to write in different places, one place being a bunk house in Ransom Canyon.

“I move around for books,” explained Thomas. “I might stay some place for a week and then go on to another.”

She gets her inspiration from daily life.

  “It’s different every time,” she said. “It could be from the way a person walks, or the accent someone speaks with.”

  She has also gotten an idea for a story from a name on a grave tombstone. Most of the names of her characters come from tombstones in the state or town that the book takes place in, so that her characters’ names sound more from the town or state the book is set in.

“A lot of times, especially with historical romances, I would drive through the cemetery and pick last names and first names and combine them,” Thomas said.

Thomas has written 50 books and is working on number 51. Of those, 22 are historical romances. The first historical romance she wrote was while she was in grad school studying to be a counselor. In the middle of a class, she got an idea and started writing it down.

“I’m a quilter of words,” Thomas said. “I take things from many places and put them together, and then I have a book.”

She continued, “The easiest way to learn how to write is to read good books.”

She said her husband used to be in the Army. Because he was gone for months at a time, she kept herself busy with teaching and reading two to three books a day.

  “Writing a book has a beat, it has music,” Thomas explained. “The best thing to do is to read. And then write down an idea. The more creative you are, the more creative you become.”

  She changed to contemporary romances after 15 years of writing historical romances. She said one of the reasons was so she could reach a bigger audience.

“I began it because I wanted to write a story of a small town,” she said. “I wanted to show how everyone in small towns influence each other’s life, either in small ways or big ways.”

She has won the Writers of America (RITA) Award and the National Readers’ Choice Award Winner. She also is in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her books have been translated into at least six different languages.

Thomas explained why she thinks Old West stories still appeal to people today, saying, “I think, especially in this part of the country, we still have the same values. Sometimes I’ll use a term and people will ask if people still use that. And I’ll say; yes.”