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HOMER HICKAM QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Fall '07 Issue, September 2007
click here for this issue's photos
Dear Gentle and Prodigious Readers:
And so summer is over and the fall begins and Linda and I find ourselves eager for all that is to come, while being reflective on all that is past and gone. Most of all, we miss our little kitty Batman who finally had to give in to his various ailments and leave us and go on to kitty heaven. He is so missed. I will let Linda write a little more on him but his loss left a big hole in our lives. As we see all that autumn brings, let us be mindful that all things change, and that there is nothing more important in our lives than family, and friends, and love.
THE WRITING LIFE:
I want to thank all my fans who read The Far Reaches, the third in the Josh Thurlow series. The novel had fantastic reviews and readers have been super enthusiastic over the novel. Of course, if you haven't read it, it can still be found in your local bookstore and also on line. I hope you like it.
I wrote a couple of articles while I was between books. Here is one I wrote for Blue Ridge Country magazine celebrating life in the mountains: http://blueridgecountry.com/ci/TheMtsMyHopes/index.html. Also, when I read a thoughtless anti-NASA editorial in the Los Angeles Times, I felt obligated to weigh in with my thoughts on going back to the moon: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oew-hickam28aug28,0,4502531.story?coll=la-opinion-center
My much-anticipated next novel, Red Helmet, is finished. Thank you if you participated in our contest to pick the cover. If you want to see the winning result, here it is: (Photo 1). The novel will be out in February, 2008, just in time for Valentine's Day. The publisher, Thomas Nelson, Inc., is very high on this book and is planning quite a publicity splash for it. One interesting aspect of the novel is that the two main characters, Song Hawkins and Cable Jordan, fall in love on the island of St. John while listening to Jim Brickman's great romantic song titled “Destiny.” Well, Jim (http://www.jimbrickman.com) heard about that and wants to be included in the marketing campaign. We're working with him on that now. More later. If you'd like to pre-order Red Helmet, please go to our website at http://www.homerhickam.com/.
I am working now with Anousheh Ansari, helping her write her memoir which is as yet untitled. Go to http://www.anoushehansari.com/news_latest.php for more.
Next up after that will be a novel tentatively titled The Dinosaur Hunter which I will do for St. Martin's Press. It will be a romantic adventure set in the great Montana badlands, an area I know quite a bit about since that's where I go every year to hunt dinosaurs! It is not a memoir but fiction based on the colorful lives of the people of Montana and the paleontologists who come there to look for the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous.
So many books, so little time. I'd better get busy!
We had a marvelous time in March down at our home in St. John when we were joined by our old friends we call the Mountain Marauders. We've traveled all around the world together and this was a chance to join up again and just spend a great deal of time relaxing. Fellow MM's Debbie and Claus have also bought a home near us on St. John so we shared our domiciles between the six couples. We snorkeled, hiked, scuba dived, kayaked, ate well, and just enjoyed the company of one another. Linda and I returned in July with our good friends Al and Carol English. We had some special visitors in our front yard that trip. (Photo 2) As always, we love our home and the people of St. John, U. S. Virgin Islands!
In June, to celebrate the publication of The Far Reaches, Linda and I threw a big bash at our house! Here's how our invitation read:
Come celebrate the publication of Homer's 9th book - The Far Reaches, a Josh Thurlow novel, set in the adventurous, colorful south seas of World War II! The TIKI party will be mostly outdoors around the "lagoon" and in the outside "Officer's Club." In honor of the book (which is set in WWII, tropical pacific), please wear your tropical finery or jungle fatigues...or dress as a nun (you'll have to read the book to find out what THAT's all about). Be forewarned, those NOT dressed in the spirit of the party will be made to wear a grass skirt and coconut bra before entering Far Reaches Northeast... Exotic island snacks and Mango Jack (an adventurous rum punch) will be served along with PX beer and soft drinks.
Linda and I spent days decorating and had lots of fun doing it. (Photo 3 - 7) We changed the front yard to look like the lagoon on the island of Tahila (just as in the book) and our back deck to be a South Pacific WWII Officer's Club. Lots of tiki torches - we only set the yard on fire once. We even built a signpost with arrows pointing to major cities and the distance in miles to them from the island of Tarawa. You may recall a similar signpost in the old television series MASH. They were also common in the South Pacific during World War II. We served exotic island munchies and plenty of Mango Jack punch, a variation on the concoction Josh and his boys drink in the novel. The party was an outstanding success and, yes, we even had one friend show up dressed as a nun! (Photo 8) Even some of our cats got into the spirit of tiki time! (Photo 9 & 10) It was a great way to celebrate the novel and a gathering of our friends and family. We're sorry we couldn't invite everyone on our newsletter mailing list. Our house isn't that big!
Among the many speeches I made during 2007, I had a great time in Grand Rapids, Michigan on a city read of Rocket Boys, a speech to support the symphony in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and also in support of the Museum of the Rockies (MOR) in Bozeman, Montana. Since I'm on the board of the MOR, that one was near and dear to my heart. I more recently was in Charleston, West Virginia, to address the West Virginia Statewide Technology Conference, and also here in Huntsville, Alabama to speak to the Southeastern Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (SASHTO). We always have fun at these events and people attending them are so nice! My speech agent, by the way, is http://www.greatertalent.com/speakers/speakers.php?speakerid=197. Because of the pressing need to meet my writing deadlines, I'm only able to occasionally go out to speak but we're always willing to fit in a few.
I went twice to Montana to hunt dinosaurs, once in late May and again in July. Jack Horner, the famous paleontologist of Jurassic Park fame, joined Frank Stewart and I in May to look over some of our previous finds and to advise us on further expeditions. When I came back in July, we found ourselves in the midst of a treacherous heat wave. It was 115 degrees on the road and much more in the canyons. Still, avid dinosaur hunters that we are, we persevered. After a death march of ten miles or more, I came back and sat on the back bumper of our truck and grabbed a V-8 out of the cooler. I opened it and that's all I remember for a minute or two as I woke up beneath the truck. Frank saw me and thought I was dead since it appeared I was covered with blood. Actually, it was the V-8! What followed was four hours of the worst leg cramps in my life. Folks, heat exhaustion is no fun! Yes, I drank plenty of water and sports drinks but this was an extreme situation. Anyway, after I recovered, I could be found in the Hell Creek bar in Jordan ordering a cheeseburger and a beer. One has to be tough to be a Montana dinosaur hunter! We also found some good bones so it was all worth it.
Oh yes, I can't forget the book tour for The Far Reaches! Everyone out there, both booksellers and fans, were so gracious and kind. Thank you all for coming out and hearing me talk about Josh Thurlow and his adventures. And, of course, thank you for buying the book!
Linda and I also just got back from a wonderful reunion with my Virginia Tech Cadet Corps buddies. Here's a look at a few of us who once served in old Squadron A (photo # 14). That's me standing 4th from the left. As always, it was great to see these guys who were my best friends during college. We had a wonderful time reminiscing as well as getting the chance to visit with some of the best and brightest young people in the country, the men and women of today's Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.
They are awesome! During the football game on Saturday, I also got the chance to visit with the Skipper crew, the cadets who fire the cannon during games and other special events. As one of the cadets long ago who built the Skipper, the famous first cannon of the Corps, it was my pleasure to hang out with the latest crew (photo # 15). Thanks for letting me fire the new Skipper, guys!
For fans interested in receiving or gifting an inscribed or autographed Homer Hickam book (think Christmas now), here's the way to do it. Just write or email John Shaver at Shaver's Bookstore, 1004 Fraser Ave., Huntsville, Al. 35801. Or you can simply email John with your request at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that this is a change of address as of about a month ago. For more information and prices, look on our homepage of http://www.homerhickam.com toward the bottom.
Next up is a trip to the Seattle Museum of Flight on Sept. 30 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Sputnik and also visit a display of some of my artifacts from my days as a Rocket Boy in Coalwood. That should be fun. I'll also be doing a booksigning. If you're in Seattle, check out the Museum's schedule and come out to see me!
Then, on October 6, Linda and I will be in Coalwood for the 9th annual October Sky Festival. This one is going to be really special with lots of surprises (Astronaut Bill Readdy will be there along with Scott Miles, the actor who played my brother) and we hope you can make it. Go here to read more in the press release: http://www.coalwoodwestvirginia.com/october_sky_festival.htm
There is even a “Reach for the Stars” contest where the winners are to launch at the October Sky Festival with the Rocket Boys. For details go to: Reach for the Stars Contest http://therocketman.net/page0016.html
Hope you have a great fall and a season of great reading!
Your writer and friend,
Our house is so empty with my lap cat Batman gone. Even though he was fifteen and had been diabetic for four years, we were not nearly ready to give him up. I really have a hard time sitting on our couch - for fourteen years, he was there with me, preferably for both of us, on my lap. He will live forever in our hearts. (Photo 11)
Kiss your pets for us and please support your local pet rescue agencies by adopting from there or giving donations and your time. We volunteer for Forgotten Felines, a local cat rescue group. http://www.forgottenfelinesff.petfinder.com. Forgotten Felines have the most thankful rescued cats to adopt. It is very hard for us to not take another sweet lap boy in but we are realistic. We want to spend more time in St. John, and our three remaining kitties are a problem with that as it is.
I have been busy still helping my parents recover from their house fire. Things are moving too slowly. It is very frustrating. But we will rebuild and they will have a lovely home again. Thank you for all your kind words and prayers for them.
We are enjoying the cooler weather. I love fall and we have the windows open, glorious. Especially nice is the large screened windows in the kitchen that look over our fish pond. The waterfall sound and the birds and breeze is just lovely in the morning especially. (Photo 12) We sometimes take a laptop outside to work, with our lovely assistants Maxx and Flopsy looking on. (Photo 13)
Of course...a couple favorite letters:
Got the manuscript for RED HELMET today and have spent a very pleasant morning with it.
Here is a quote you and your publisher may use any way you wish to promote this book or any of your literary efforts.
"America's working men and women are Hickam's heroes; he is the Mark Twain of our age, and perhaps the best mainstream writer still tapping keys." Stephen Coonts
PS Your remarks at the Sago Miners Memorial service in Buckhannon moved me to tears. You have a gift.
[Note: Steve Coonts is the best-selling author of Flight of the Intruder and other great books. He also grew up in West Virginia, too!]
I have enjoyed most of your books but my favorite is "The Keeper's Son." I belonged to a book club at my public library in Hampden, MA for 3 years before finally getting up the nerve to recommend a book. The reason is our group is a varied group and usually a few love the monthly selection, a few think it ok, but then there are those that absolutely HATE the book. I didn't have the heart to recommend a book I loved to have others tear it apart. So, I never made a recommendation until "The Keeper's Son." I am pleased to tell you, in the 3 years I participated in the book club, it is the ONLY book everyone truly loved!
I recently read it for the 3rd time because we camped all along the Hatteras National Seashore over April school vacation. It was fun associating places we visited with the book.
Keep up the great work and I look forward to your new book coming soon! JK
I've recently found and read Rocket Boys/October Sky, what a marvelous book. It was so evocative of childhood and the things that boys get up too that it took me back 40 years to my own when I had similar adventures but without added drama of giving hope to a whole town . The story was beautifully told and very moving in all sorts of ways from the excitement of the rocket tests to the emotions of the first experiences of women via the pain of losing a loved pet and relationships with adults particularly ones parents...... I felt them all.
Thank you... PL, London, England.
Dear Mr. Hickam,
Thank you for the tears and cheers of The Keepers Son!
Words fail me, beyond this accolade. Thanks again. ~ Todd