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Looking for the Next Great Novel

A Vienna man creates a publishing house to help unknown writers.

Many people know that J. K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books not as a successful author, but as a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Like Rowling, Shine Publishing started not during a high point in Vienna resident's Dan Scholz's life, but at a low point. He was on the law school track, but he was dissatisfied with his job at a Washington law firm, and he had just separated from his wife.

As Scholz went out to visit his friend Stephen Baines in Toronto, Canada, he brought along a manuscript that his friend had written years ago. When Scholz and Baines read it, they wanted the book to be published somehow. But instead of sending it to a major publishing house where it could get lost, they decided to establish one themselves.

"I just saw this as an excellent opportunity, a unique one, and we've just taken advantage of it," said Scholz of their publishing firm, Shine Publishing.

Scholz and Baines have been running Shine Publishing since September. They published their first project, a children's book called "The Cats of Storm Mountain," this past April.

The duo's aim is to work with unknown authors to help them get their works published and distributed to a wider audience.

"You could have the greatest book ever written, but unless you have an agent or a connection within the publishing industry, nobody outside of your immediate circle will ever have a chance to enjoy it," said Baines, who put his studies to become an optometrist on hold. "This is where we come in."

THE PUBLISHING firm got a shove with having a potential book, "The Cats of Storm Mountain," on hand. Scholz had read the book when he was attending Marshall High School, from which he graduated in 1996. He knew the author, McKay Daines, as a teacher and church leader.

The book itself was based on stories Daines' father had made up while Daines grew up in McLean. They were about the adventures of Alley Cat, a brash yet clever household servant who discovers a murder plot.

"They are based on stories my father used to tell four rowdy brothers before going to sleep," said Daines, who graduated from Langley High School in 1979 and continued living in McLean two years ago.

When Scholz decided to start up the publishing firm, he asked Daines if they could publish his manuscript, which he had written over 10 years ago. Baines got onto the publishing boat when he read Daines' manuscript.

Daines agreed to having the book published, and the manuscript was re-examined.

"It's fast-paced. It's exciting. It's got really colorful characters. The dialogue is fabulous," Scholz said.

A New York editor worked on the story, Daines' brother Cameron made more illustrations for the book, and Scholz, Baines and Baines' wife Amanda worked on the printing and distribution logistics.

Much of the work had been done online, through many late-night e-mails and Instant Messaging. Cameron Baines, the illustrator, was based in New Mexico, the Baines were in Toronto for part of the time, McKay Daines was in Utah and Scholz was working out of his home office in Vienna.

They electronically sent to each other pdf files and images, and through a printing company in South Carolina, they are able to send the book or chapters of it through the Internet.

"That was just a neat thing that we were able to do that," Scholz said.

NOW THAT hard copies of the book have been printed, Scholz and the Baines have been working with distributing channels and independent booksellers to get the book out to the public. Daines, a movie producer, is working on scheduling book signings while negotiating movie rights with film companies.

A typical day can include updating the book and the publishing firm's Web sites, packaging books, interacting with booksellers and editing other projects. Scholz added that they are working to get the book translated into Chinese and Arabic, two untapped markets.

"We're very confident in the product, so I'm sure there are a lot of orders coming in," said Scholz, who was awaiting responses for booksellers.

And while the Baines and Scholz are busy promoting "The Cats of Storm Mountain," they are working on another project, a book written by Scholz's younger brother, Austin Goodnight, and they are publicizing a writer's contest, in which the winner would receive a publishing contract and a $5,000 award.

Because the publishing company is still new, Baines and Scholz have not decided yet to focus on any particular genre. But they said they are always on the lookout for the next great American novel.

"We want to be a voice for that small, unknown writer," Baines said.