Today we have the distinct honor of having him guest blogging with us. He's taken time from promoting his new book to be here, so please make room on the swings for Homer Hickam.
First, thanks to Marilyn, Kimberly, Kira, Danniele, and Alexandra for letting me put in my two cents here. I'm a big admirer of them and all writers, published or not. Getting published is not an easy enterprise and pure talent sadly does not always prevail. So what does? Simply put, the ability to tell a good story combined with perseverance and a healthy dollop of luck. Recently, I had a movie producer friend (he's with Disney) send me his manuscript for a men's adventure novel. I read it and thought it was absolutely dynamite.
I sent it off with raves to my agent who has always respected my judgment. The answer came back from one of my agent's associates that, yeah, it's good but it could be better with a complete overhaul including changing the major character. Huh? This is a Disney producer who knows how to tell a good story and, what's more, he's got a track record that proves it! Yet, thanks but no thanks. Sure, I think he'll find a home for his work but this certainly reminded me how difficult it is to get represented and published even if your credentials are impeccable, you come with the highest recommendations, and your work is very good.
I started as a free-lance writer back in the early 1970's, mostly for scuba diving and travel magazines. I just pecked away, learning as I went. Eventually, I wrote TORPEDO JUNCTION, a true account of the U-boat war along the East Coast during World War II. When I finished it, I sent it off to the Naval Institute Press (Tom Clancy's first publisher), confident of its acceptance because I knew it was good. It came back several months later with a rejection form letter. I immediately sent it back with a letter requesting another look.
Astonishingly, this time they accepted it. Why? Because, luckily, this time it landed in the hands of someone who actually read it! TORPEDO JUNCTION was published in 1989 and was soon picked up by Bantam Doubleday Dell as a mass market. It's still in print and has sold probably in the neighborhood of a quarter million copies. The ability to tell a good story (honed over years), perseverance, and a big dollop of luck got my manuscript published. ROCKET BOYS, the book that made my career, required the same trio. That's just the way it is but do not be discouraged! You can learn to tell a good story (reading good ones help in this regard), perseverance is a given if you're a writer, and luck comes to those who try hard and long enough.
Now, let's turn to RED HELMET, my latest novel. After reading it, Marilyn wrote to say: "I do declare you have written a romance and not just a love story!" She then proceeded to give me the Romance Writers of America's definition of a romance which RED HELMET satisfies. I take this as high praise! Writers working in the romance genre today are some of the finest authors in the country. They work hard at their craft and pay attention to their readers. I am tickled to join their ranks!
Briefly put, RED HELMET is the story of a rich, beautiful, New York City woman who marries a West Virginia coal miner and the tumultuous romance that follows combined with a little deep mine adventure, murder and mayhem. Mickey, my Hollywood agent, called and pronounced it "Legally Blonde in a Coal Mine!" which was, to him, a big compliment. Song, the woman protagonist, is a brunette but there's some things you don't argue about with Hollywood. Mickey's going forward with it to the folks out on the Left Coast. We'll see.
Occasionally, a writer gets something really fun that just sails through the transom out of nowhere and here's the latest for me. Kathy Mattea, the big country music star, asked me to write the notes for her next album titled COAL. I did and she loved what I had to say. Now, we're going to make some appearances together to jointly promote Red Helmet and COAL which should be a lot of fun. We're even going to get together and go inside a coal mine in West Virginia later this month. More on all this can be read on my blogs and newsletters on http://www.homerhickam.com. While you're there, please take a moment to consider donating to the Homer Hickam, Sr./Red Helmet Marshall University Scholarship for the children of coal miners, and also sign a petition to create a National Miners Day.
Thanks again for letting me join you today. Please keep writing and reading. I love you guys!
P.S. Homer will be giving away an autographed copy of Red Helmet to one lucky commenter today. Good luck!