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HOMER HICKAM QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER
Summer '08 Issue, June 2008
click here for this issue's photos
Dear Gentle and Prodigious Readers:
And so summer is here again. We haven't sent out a newsletter since February and so much has happened since, some good, some not so good, and some in-between. Thank you for letting us share it all with you! You are so important to everything we do.
THE WRITING LIFE:
A note to everyone who read Red Helmet, my love story set in today's West Virginia coalfields. Song and Cable, the two main characters in the novel, were met by so many with such enthusiasm, there have been some demands for a sequel. I'd like to write it but Red Helmet II will have to wait a bit. I am currently co-writing Anousheh Ansari's memoir (http://www.anoushehansari.com) and that will be followed by a novel titled The Dinosaur Hunter, set in today's Montana badlands, an area I know a lot about. As many of you already know, I go and hunt dinosaurs there every year, no lie!
The Far Reaches, the third in the Josh Thurlow series, is out next week in trade paperback format. This novel, set in the glorious south Pacific, had wonderful reviews and readers have also written to tell me how much they loved it. For you paperback readers, be sure and check it out! Lots of info here: http://www.homerhickam.com/books/tfr.shtml.
Also great news is that an unabridged audio book of Rocket Boys will be available in the fall, as well as an unabridged audio of Red Helmet. We have been fighting to get Rocket Boys in an unabridged audio as so many teachers have asked for the full book on tape. Linda fot a Kindle electronic book for her birthday and most Hickam titles are available for it It is a pretty neat gadget!
So many books, so little time. I'm contracted for three more past the Anousheh memoir and the dinosaur novel. It's all good and keeps me busy! But there is one more big, fun writing job I am working on—a musical play based on my book Rocket Boys! We have been involved with this project for four years and we hope it is headed eventually to Broadway. In May, the play's creative team put on a spectacular staged concert reading here in Huntsville, Alabama, at the marvelous new Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center. (Photo 1 and 2)) A staged reading is where the entire play is performed but the actors hold their scripts throughout and there are no sets and minimal costuming.. Also, see http://rocketboysthemusical.com/productions.html for more photos. It was a most remarkable and intense week. The actors were absolutely superb. They had but one week to rehearse and they really put their collective hearts into it. Deservedly, they got standing ovations after both shows. I was very impressed with Carl Anthony Tramon (often called CAT) who served both as director and as "Sonny," the main protagonist of the show. He's in nearly every scene! His brother Dan Tramon and sister Diana Belkowski are the show's composers and what great talents they are. They've written some wonderful songs as you'll hear if you'll go to the website mentioned above. The show ran on two consecutive days, Saturday and Sunday, and were sell-outs on both days. As one of the writers on the script, I learned so much by putting on the performance, what worked and what didn't, that I think it's going to have a much more powerful piece the next time it's performed. Many, many steps to Broadway yet to go but we're getting there! After its professional run, I look forward to the show being available for community theatre and schools to perform. Again, go to http://rocketboysthemusical.com/audio.html and listen to some of the great music!
The Red Helmet book tour in February was probably the best I've ever had. Lines were long, readers were enthusiastic, booksellers generous, everyone had a good time. My tour across West Virginia was especially gratifying (Photo 3). As many of you know, I endowed a scholarship at Marshall University called the Homer Hickam, Sr./Red Helmet scholarship. Named for my father and the novel, it is for the children and grandchildren of coal miners. Of course, I would appreciate it if folks would go to http://www.homerhickam.com and give something to help make the scholarship even stronger. There is a link there to make it easy. Any amount would be wonderful. Many kids, who desperately want to go to college AND deserve to go, will be helped. These are not students who just sit back and wait for a handout. To be eligible for the scholarship, they must have worked hard through high school to prepare themselves. Believe me, they will deserve this helping hand!
And while you're on my site, please also take a moment to click on the NATIONAL MINERS DAY page and sign the petition to create a special day for what I call our "Essential Americans," those who mine the deep coal. I would be most appreciative and so will miners across the country.
One of the highlights of the book tour was when Linda and I diverged long enough to visit the Robinson Run coal mine in West Virginia along with good friend Kathy Mattea, her husband, and some members of her band (Photos 4 & 5). Kathy was most impressed, as we all were, by the men and women of CONSOL, one of the best mining operations anywhere. It was the first time in a coal mine for Kathy and she was right at home. Of course! She's a West Virginian and it's practically in her genetic code. She has a great new album out, not coincidentally titled COAL. Filled with great mining songs, the album is truly wonderful (I wrote the liner notes for it), and I think you'll love it. Go to www.mattea.com to read all about it and hear some of Kathy's awesome music. She even has a special promotion where you can get Red Helmet and Coal together at http://www.kathymatteastore.com/
We had a marvelous time in April down at our home in St. John. This time, Linda didn't even have to go have emergency surgery! We had some nice parties, went scuba diving, and just relaxed while also working on our house. As always, we love our home called Skyridge and the people of the U. S. Virgin Islands (Photo 6)!
Also in May, we had the great band named Homer Hiccolm and the Rocketboys play in Huntsville! (Photo 7). Go to http://www.myspace.com/rocketboys to hear some of their terrific music and also see their schedule. They may be coming to a town near you. If so, go, have a great time, and tell them the real "Homer Hickam" sent you. By the way, the cast from Rocket Boys, the musical, came to see them and we had a great but late fun night.
In June, I joined fellow dinosaur hunters Frank Stewart and Al Cunningham for a trek into the Montana badlands. Among other bones, we found a humongous Triceratops we hope paleontologist Jack Horner and his team will dig out. I love that area out by Jordan. The people are wonderful and the land is spectacular. Here are some photos of me, Frank, and Al with our 4-wheelers on a blustery cold day and also the nose horn of our gigantic Trike (Photos 8, 9, 10 and 11).
Sadly, while I was gone, our newest kitty, a former feral we called Bobby, disappeared. We have looked everywhere for him and still haven't given up hope. He wasn't a pretty cat but we loved him (Photo 12). So did China who often goes to the door to see if her boyfriend's there. Poor China. Poor Bobby.
I think you know that I'll be in Washington, DC, on June 28-29, 2008 for a couple of talks and book-signings. See my blog at www.homerhickam.com for that schedule. We'll also return to St. John later in the summer and I'll probably have another trip to Montana for some more dino-hunting. Linda may head out to a well-deserved vacation at a fitness resort. Stay tuned!
Hope you have a wonderful rest of the summer with lots of great reading!
Your writer and friend,
Gosh, it indeed has been a long time since our last newsletter. My spring and early summer was taken up by helping my family recover from their house fire last year and my mother's colon cancer operation in February. Luckily it is all good news on all fronts. Our family home is rebuilt and even expanded and my parents love it. Mom is making a full recovery from her surgery and is back sewing and gardening nearly full steam. We are all so amazed at her strength to rise above all this and I am so thankful to have a large loving family who all pulled together to get my parents back on their feet! Bless his heart, Homer was a rock taking care of our family and business while I was away from home so much helping my folks.
However, helping build back the Terry house and visiting my sister's new house has give me the bug to remodel ours! We have kept looking in Huntsville but we just love where we are so much and our great private yard. The only problem is our house is just a little small. Just in the planning stages now, the mess will begin this fall. We also still hope to winter over on St John someday!
Losing our Bobby is very sad. He was a feral in the neighborhood for a couple of years before we took him in but he was always friendly enough to let us pet him. Last year, we had him "fixed," and pretty soon, he was inside sitting on our laps. He seemed proud of his new collar and red mouse tag, stating he was a Hickam cat. He had a tendency to bite (not too hard) if he was nervous but otherwise was a perfect gentleman and got along well with our other inside cats He isn't a handsome cat but we love him, anyway.
We let him out about midnight June 2 and that's the last time we've seen him. Now, of course, we wish we'd kept him inside but we had not been able to tell if he was using the litter box yet so when he went to the door and asked out, we let him. A couple of days later, we found his collar near the fishpond in our front yard which is on a slope, all rocks and trees. There was no sign of a struggle. It is just a big mystery what happened to him. We've searched through the area but it is very densely wooded. Everyone in the neighborhood has looked for him but there is no sign at all. Some have suggested coyotes and I guess that's a terrible possibility but I don't know.
There is a chance that he's gone back to his feral ways but losing his collar doesn't quite fit with that. It's a mystery considering how long he was in the neighborhood, a "street smart" cat, then suddenly he was gone. Prayers for Bobby, wherever he is, are appreciated.
Here's some photos of our other spoiled cats, all fat and sassy (Photos 13, 14, 15, and 16).
Photo 17 is Homer and me at the big gala for the opening of the Davidson Center at Huntsville's Space and Rocket Center that houses a complete Saturn V and has been named one of the Seven Technological Wonders of the World.
Photo 18 is from Carol English, of her granddog Duke, caught reading Red Helmet in bed!
Photo 19 is a hungry mama raccoon robbing our birdfeeder on the deck.
Some great fan mail follows. Have a great summer!
**** BM wrote about Red Helmet, "...and after 2 chapters, you had me! ... Great story telling, and you had my eyes watering a couple of times. Of course, there were a few improbables, as well - not the least of which is that a small girl like Song simply couldn't do (I don't think) the physical things that are required of miners...But I'm sure that there are some female miners....just not sure that they're hot, petite, babes, like Song ! "
Ahem BM, Linda here, introducing, Becky Hardy, mining engineer for International Coal Group (ICG), Wolf Run Mining Company, Sentinal Mine, Philippi, WV. She is a graduate of WVU and this was sent by her proud dad. Linda (Photo 20)
**** Dear Homer: I am the Grandson of a coal miner and the son of a steel worker. I just finished reading Red Helmet and I must say you have written another great book. I spent 15 years as an Engineer in the mines and I still have my red helmet to this day, although I switched to a white hat many years ago. I have every one of your books to date. I found the book to be right on target in terms of mining although I don't remember anyone painting a red hat black. They just got black ones issued. Another great one! I saw you at the last Corps reunion, but I did not get a chance to introduce myself. DM
**** Dear Mr. Hickam: I just finished reading Red Helmet. It is a fantastic book and I could not put it down. My husband is a coal miner -- 25 years at Consol Energy (PA, WV, OH -- 11 different mines) and three years ago we moved to Alabama where he is a general manager. The book spoke to my heart. Thank you for defining what much of the world does not know or understand -- coal miners are incredible men and women! J Mc
**** My Little Space Barbie (Photo 21)
Hi Homer Hickam, Many years ago my daughter wanted to be an astronaut for Halloween. Luckily, she had a serious candy craving in July and this gave me enough time to put together a costume. I looked and looked for a girl's version of a spacesuit pattern in the fabric stores with no luck. Then, I remembered an article you had written about Barbie in Space. I thought, why not a pink spacesuit? I also had a picture of Michael Whelan's ' The Ultimate Sandbox' as a reference. I did use a boys costume pattern as a starting point.
Somehow materials came together by magic. Sales of shiny pink and purple holographic fabric at the Sewing shop appeared. Then discounts on 'iron on' Army patches that had 'Princess' stitched on top. I started to get excited making this outfit. Moms don't usually have time for Halloween costumes and they are whipped together at the last minute. After many days of sewing and play my daughter finally got her wish.
Now, she wants to be an Engineer like her Dad. My husband has a goofy smile on his face every time she says it.
So, you never know what will result from your writing. Have a great day. Regards, Denise Korsman
P.S. Please tell the NASA guys to make an elegant spacesuit for the ladies with some color. If the guys want to look like the Goodyear blimp they can go ahead. I know..... safety first for EVA. This is the artist in me speaking.
**** The response from Astronaut Barbara Morgan after we sent her the above note and photo:
You made my day! Thanks! And hi, too. --Barbara