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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

First GoodReads Reviews of Carrying Albert Home

We're loving the early reviews Carrying Albert Home is getting on Goodreads.com.  These readers have received advance reading editions (AREs).  Here are some of their reviews.






Hope you enjoyed seeing these early reviews. Thanks to the reviewers and GoodReads.com.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Pages from Carrying Albert Home appropriate for a Sunday in August


www.homerhickam.com

Here are two more preview pages from Carrying Albert Home (publication date: October 13, 2015) which seemed appropriate for a Sunday in August (it being August when I did this).

The run-up to these two pages is that Elsie, Homer, Albert, and the rooster are on the coast of South Carolina. They are out of money and Homer is sick so Elsie has taken the job of managing an old hotel on the beach. Rose is an orphan child Elsie has hired to help her.





Rose also took Elsie to the seashore, where she’d never been before. They walked around the sound, then through a shallow inlet to reach the Atlantic Coast. In every direction, the sea appeared endless. Elsie was enthralled by the wind, the waves, the thunderous noise, and the way the sand felt between her toes. “They call this the Grand Strand,” Rose reported.
     “It is aptly named,” Elsie replied. “I have never seen a beach so grand.”
     Rose pointed at the flat round shells that littered the beach. “Those are sand dollars, missus,” she said. She picked one up and broke it open to reveal what looked like tiny sculptured birds of fine white china.
     “Why are they in there where no one can see them?” Elsie asked.
     “Nobody knows,” Rose said, “except as a hidden glory of God. It makes you wonder what other glories He keeps hidden.”
     “You have spoken of God before,” Elsie said. “What do you know about Him?”
     “I have never set foot in a church,” Rose answered, “but somebody must have made all this.”
     “A sensible answer,” Elsie said, her admiration for the child growing.
     Rose pointed out the gray driftwood, twisted like gargoyles and shoved back along the dunes. “The sailors say those are formed by mermaids. Maybe they sculpt the sand dollars, too.”
     Elsie picked up what she thought was a black arrowhead. Her brothers were always bringing arrowheads home from their hikes into the surrounding mountains but this one was a bit strange.         “What is this, Rose?” she asked.
     “Why, it’s a shark’s tooth, missus,” Rose replied.
      Elsie studied the tooth, noting now the fine serrations along the edge like those on a butcher’s bone knife. She worried it between her fingers, its smooth surface soothing to the touch. “But why is it black?” she asked.
     “I’m sure I don’t know,” Rose answered. “I’ve seen the fishing boats bring in a shark now and again and their teeth are always white as ivory.”
    “Maybe black teeth are very old,” Elsie proposed. “Like dinosaurs.”
    “Things usually bust up in the sea when they’re old,” Rose scoffed, then bent down and picked up something blue and sparkling in the surf. “Like this piece of beach glass.”
     Elsie took the glass. It was smooth and rounded on its edges and glittered in the sun like a jewel.      “It’s beautiful,” she said.
     “It’s just a piece from an old bottle,” Rose replied, “tumbled in the sand by the sea for a long time. You can keep it.”
     Elsie put the beach glass and the tooth in her pocket. “Thank you, Rose.”
     Rose shrugged, then pointed at a large shell just at the ocean’s edge. “Look there. It is a queen conch, a true beauty!”
     Elsie followed Rose to the big shell, all turned into itself, pink and white and smooth. Elsie picked it up and held it to her ear. “I thought I could hear the ocean in this kind of shell but I don’t hear anything.”
     “That’s because its animal still lives in it,” Rose said, taking the shell and showing Elsie the hard gray foot of the sea creature within. “It will soon die here in the air and the sun.”
     “Then let’s return it to the sea,” Elsie proposed. She took the shell and waded into the water, past the first row of waves, where she dropped the shell. “There,” she said, walking out.
     Rose said, “Oh, missus, you are very bold. There are sharks in the surf this time of the year.”
     “Fortune favors the bold, Rose,” Elsie replied, although she was shaken by the belated warning. There was so much about the sea she . . . 

For more on "Albert," and how to order, please go to my website here: www.homerhickam.com

Elsie in Florida before she returned to West Virginia, married Homer, and was given
 Albert as a wedding gift. Two years later, the journey began.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Special early peek: Two more pages of Carrying Albert Home for our friends and fans



An early peek at two more pages (133-134, Chapter 19) of Carrying Albert Home just for our Facebook, Twitter, and HomerHickam.com friends plus followers of this blog.


A little background before we begin: Elsie has been kidnapped by a handsome whiskey-smuggling driver of North Carolina's infamous Thunder Road. Homer has escaped the driver's brothers and, with Albert and the rooster, speeds off to rescue Elsie. But when the Buick breaks down deep into the night, Homer has no choice but to go on foot down an empty and very dark dirt road. Carrying Albert and the rooster, he at last collapses on the front porch of a farmhouse until sunrise. And then...


* * * * * * * * *

     When Homer awoke, it was to the sound of several roosters crowing. The sun was creeping up above the pasture across the road. When he heard a noise, he found himself staring into the pale gray eyes of a gaunt man dressed in coveralls sitting in the rocker beside him.
     The man had a strange kind of face and Homer thought he’d never seen the like of it. He had skin that was white as plaster and his hair was also white, so white it looked like he’d stuck his head in a can of whitewash. He wasn’t an albino, Homer didn’t think, because he’d heard they had pink eyes and this man’s eyes were gray, but, still, he had to be close to one.
Homer bent down and picked up his shoes. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just resting.”
     “Oh, please stay,” the man said. His tone was friendly. “Our porch was made for comfort and it appears you’ve availed yourself of it. That pleases me.”
     Homer put on his shoes, wincing at they pressed against his blisters. “My car broke down and I was walking,” he explained, “and got tired. I have to get to Charlotte as fast as I can. Can you help me?”
     The man ignored Homer’s plea. “I also noticed that you have an alligator. And a rooster. It’s a quiet rooster. When my roosters crowed, it didn’t.”
     “It does seem to be a polite bird,” Homer acknowledged. “The alligator is named Albert and is my wife’s pet. We’re carrying him home to Florida.”
     “I see,” the man said. “And where is your wife?”
    “That’s why I need to get to Charlotte. She has been kidnapped by a man named Denver who runs the thunder road.”
     The man’s mouth moved very slightly. It was almost a smile. “Yes, I know who you mean. Denver transports illegal liquor to Charlotte. He usually has a woman with him so he appears to be just an innocent family man. I suspect your wife is being used in that ruse, in which case you have little to fear from him. He is not by nature a rapist or a murderer. He merely likes to drive fast. I noticed you winced when you put on your shoes. Do you have blisters?”
    Homer, relieved at the man's good report of Denver, looked unhappily at his shoes. "I do. These shoes are pretty new and not really meant for heavy duty. How can I find Denver?"
    “When he goes to Charlotte, he usually stays for about a week. I have heard he prefers the Sunshine Motel. Most likely, he’ll be there. My name is Carlos. What’s yours?”
     Homer felt more relief at the confirmation of the Sunshine Motel as Denver’s destination. “My name’s Homer,” he answered.
     Carlos clapped his hands. “Delightful! You are named after the original sage, scribe, writer, and poet! I, too, do a little writing. Tempest toss’d the tide of woman, precious ‘v’ of life and love, yearns a man with bended knees, succor’d fast the nectar of gods. I wrote that just last week.”
     “That’s pretty good,” Homer said even though he didn’t really think it was.
     “Do you write as well, Homer?”
     “Well, I write in what’s called a mine diary. Captain Laird wants all his foremen to do it and so I do even though I’m not quite yet a foreman.”
     “Can you give me an example of your prose?”
     Homer thought about that, then said, “‘Loaded thirty-two tons on Three West. Water pump broke. Fixed with mine wire but liable to come loose.’”
     Carlos looked skyward with an expression of rapture, even though the porch roof was in the way. Finally, he lowered his head and said, “Although it is difficult for me to follow, I sense great meaning there.”
     Through the screen door, Homer heard the sound of light footsteps and then a woman stepped outside on the porch. Homer thought she was perhaps the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her olive-colored skin was without blemish, her nose was majestic, and her lips were full. On her hands were gold rings set with stones that looked like they could be rubies and garnets. She wore gold bracelets of various designs on her wrists, a white kerchief on her head, and a blue silk robe around her exquisite body.
     Homer stood, not because she was beautiful and exotic (which she was), but because he had been taught by his mother to always stand in the presence of a woman just met.
     “Soufflé,” Carlos said, “we have a guest. His name is Homer and he is a writer. He travels with an alligator whose name is Albert. That rust-colored rooster with the bright green tail over there has no name—for there are many gods or angels unnamed—but is also his companion. Homer, this is Soufflé. She is my mistress.”
     “I’m actually a coal miner,” Homer said, noting that Carlos had called the lovely woman his ‘mistress,’ and not his wife. He had never known a man and a woman who lived together without being married except for an elderly brother and his sister over on Anawalt Mountain, near Gary.
     The woman studied Albert, who responded by looking back at her with much the same expression he used with Elsie, that of adoration. Soufflé then turned her eyes toward Homer, who couldn’t help but notice that her eyes were black as a bottomless well, a well in which Homer thought and even wished at that moment he might fall forever. He also had the unsettling sense that she knew exactly what he was thinking.
* * * * * * * *

These on-line sellers can handle pre-orders of Albert or check with your local bookseller
 to discover when Albert will arrive at their stores! Thank you as always for your support.





AUTOGRAPHED ALBERT



Sunday, August 16, 2015

For some folks, Carrying Albert Home may NOT be what they think it is...

Linda is getting a distressingly large number of orders from readers for autographed and inscribed Carrying Albert Home novels which indicate they have misconceptions about the book.

"Dear Linda," they write, "I want to order Carrying Albert Home for little Johnny (or Susie). Please have Homer write something inspirational in it."

That's a tough order for me to write to a child, especially for a book that contains the F-bomb.

Yes, yes, it's used sparingly, and entirely in character, and the protagonists are properly appalled when that character uses that terrible word suitable only for Marines clawing across a bullet-strewn beach, but there it is. Little Johnny or Susie really isn't going to get inspired by a book meant for adults.

So let's have this discussion.

Sometimes, an author gets placed in a niche that actually doesn't fit.

I am somewhat such an author and most of the reason has to do with the film October Sky.

October Sky, based on my memoir Rocket Boys, is pretty much a pasteurized version of the book. It hits the high spots, makes some stuff up that makes me look far better and nicer than I really was, and doesn't go very deep into the story as I wrote it, of a dying coal town, and the battle between my parents about the future of their children, and of the struggle between the townspeople as their world begins to change, and of my sometimes selfish insistence on getting my way.

The result of the film is that lots of people think Rocket Boys is a book for young people and, to a certain extent, they're correct. But it's only for young people who are mature enough to handle a story that often gets emotional in provocative ways and shows me maturing from being selfish to understanding the sacrifices going on around me on a daily basis, and gradually and sometimes grudgingly adjusting my behavior as a result. Yes, it is inspirational but not because of me but because of how the town and teachers rally around the Rocket Boys, sacrificing themselves for their children. Young readers mostly get this and understand what it all means. I am very pleased that many, many youngsters have read Rocket Boys and decided that they have a better understanding of their parents and teachers and perhaps themselves, and therefore have dedicated themselves to a better future just as the Rocket Boys did.

Similarly, Carrying Albert Home can be read by mature young people who will get a lot out of it but it isn't written with them in mind. It is written to bring forth a family legend that, while often amusing and adventurous and downright fun, goes deeply into marital conflict, the pain of loss and rejection, and the anguish of wanting more than what is possible or probable. In short, it is a story that is emotionally very real and it pulls no punches in that regard although Albert, I think you'll agree after reading his "tale" (see what I did there?), is the most lovable creature you'll have encountered recently in literature. He will, I believe, make you smile often and almost even want to hug your nearest scaly, toothy reptile. Trust me. You might even shed a very real tear over Elsie's "little boy."

I only mention the F-bomb because it's a direct way to let people know Albert is an adult book. It is only used a couple of times and then only in one section by a boozy but famous actress completely in character. Believe me, I internally questioned the use of the word since I scarcely ever use it myself but to be true to the character, who tries to be shocking, I went ahead.

If you will look over my backlist on www.homerhickam.com, you'll see that my writing career has mostly been aimed at the adult reader. Certainly, the "Josh Thurlow" series is adult, being set in wartime with a lead character who sometimes glories in bloody battle while, at the same time, being repelled by it. They're complex novels, decidedly adult, as are Torpedo JunctionThe Dinosaur Hunter, Red Helmet, and Back to the Moon.

But, let me be clear, I have written memoirs and novels that can be safely read by young folks. The Coalwood Way, Sky of Stone, We Are Not Afraid, My Dream of StarsCrater, Crescent, The Lunar Rescue Company, Paco the Cat Who Meowed in Space, and From Rocket Boys to October Sky are all suitable for young readers, as well as adults. So is Rocket Boys, mind, but still with the caveats mentioned above.

Linda and I know we have been somewhat complicit in the confusion about Carrying Albert Home and its audience. For the past year, we've been carrying around an "Albert" stand-in, a cute little stuffed alligator that, as we've traveled, we've posted photos of him with us on Facebook, Twitter, our website, our newsletters, and this blog. We love the reaction that "Albert" gets and it gives us a chance to tell his story and mention the book. We are very sorry for that misdirection although we still like carrying "Albert" around and probably will continue to post photographs of him looking properly cute. It's all part of what I've often said, "I don't know why people think I'm normal. I'm not normal. I write for a living. What's normal about that?" And Linda is married to an author so she isn't normal, either. Please forgive us.

Anyway, enough said. And if you still want to order Carrying Albert Home for little Johnny and Susie, that's more than fine. Just wait about six to ten years before you give it to him or her and you will be properly thanked although  - fair warning - they may decide to become alligator wrestlers or writers. I'm not sure which would be worse.

Our best to everyone, especially our much appreciated readers, or as Albert says, "Yeah-yeah-yeah!"





AUTOGRAPHED ALBERT




Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sneak Peek - Introduction to CARRYING ALBERT HOME

It's always fun to give readers a sneak peek at one of my upcoming novels, especially one I think may be among my very best work.

Carrying Albert Home is a novel that is very near and dear to my heart. Some folks say it's a prequel to Rocket Boys. I think maybe Rocket Boys in the future will be classified as the sequel to Carrying Albert Home. From all reports from reviewers, it's a special book. Often as I was writing it, I kept getting the same sense of displacement I got when I was writing Rocket Boys, as if an unseen hand was writing it for me.

If you enjoyed reading Rocket Boys (aka October Sky), trust me you're going to love reading Carrying Albert Home with a certain caveat. Carrying Albert Home is an adult book. Linda says no one below 18 should read "Albert." I would slide that down a year or two but she's essentially right. This is a story of all kinds of love that is often, well, quite dramatic.

Enough said. Here's that sneak peek, the introduction to Carrying Albert Home to be published in Oct. 2015.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 INTRODUCTION


Until my mother told me about Albert, I never knew she and my father had undertaken an adventurous and dangerous journey to carry him home. I didn’t know how they came to be married or what shaped them to become the people I knew. I also didn’t know that my mother carried in her heart an unquenchable love for a man who became a famous Hollywood actor or that my father met that man after battling a mighty hurricane, not only in the tropics but in his soul. The story of Albert taught me these and many other things, not only about my parents but the life they gave me to live, and the lives we all live, even when we don’t understand why.

      The journey my parents took was in 1935, the sixth year of the Great Depression. At that time, a little more than one thousand people lived in Coalwood and, like my future parents, most of them were young marrieds who had grown up in the coalfields. Every day, as their fathers and grandfathers had done before them, the men got up and went to work in the mine where they tore at the raw coal with drills, explosives, picks, and shovels while the roof above them groaned and cracked and sometimes fell. Death happened often enough that a certain melancholy existed between the young men and women of Coalwood when they made their daily farewells. Yet, for the company dollar and a company house, those farewells were made and the men trudged off to join the long line of miners, lunch buckets swinging and boots plodding, all heading for the deep, dark underground.

      While their men toiled in the mine, the women of Coalwood were tasked with keeping their assigned company houses clean of the never-ending dust. Chuffing coal trains rumbled down tracks placed within feet of the houses, throwing up dense clouds of choking ebony powder that filtered inside no matter how tightly doors and windows were shut against it. Coalwood’s people breathed dust with every breath and saw it rise in a gray mist when they walked the streets. It blossomed from their pillows when their tired heads were laid down and rose in a sparkling cloud when blankets were pushed aside after sleep. Each morning, the women got up and fought the dust, then got up the next day and fought it again after they’d sent their husbands to the mine to create more of it.

      Raising the children was also left to the wives. This was at a time when scarlet fever, measles, influenza, typhus, and unidentified fevers routinely swept through the coalfields, killing weak and strong children alike. There were few families untouched by the loss of a child. The daily uncertainty for their husbands and children took its toll. Not too many years had to pass before the natural innocent sweetness of a young West Virginia girl was replaced by the tough, hard shell that characterized a woman of the coalfields.

      This was the world as it was lived by Homer and Elsie Hickam, my parents before they were my parents. It was a world Homer accepted. It was a world Elsie hated.

      But of course she did.

      She had, after all, spent time in Florida.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Famous Caricaturist Don Howard's take on the Carrying Albert Home story.
Albert's in his tub, with the rooster (who, for no apparent reason liked to ride on his back or head).
Elsie and Homer are behind their 1926 Buick parked on the beach. Albert and the rooster rode in the back seat.
Sometimes, John Steinbeck did, too.
Hope you enjoyed this little peek at "Albert." There's some excitement in Hollywood AND Broadway about this unique story. If you like what you've read, please have a further look at these sites. Pre-orders are certainly appreciated as they give a novel a certain oompth! as it climbs to its feet and makes its way through the tens of thousands of books published every week that demand your attention.





As always, I appreciate your support of my work. I'll keep writing them as long as you keep reading them! Be sure also to check out my new website at www.homerhickam.com!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

A brand new Homer Hickam website!

I’m pleased to announce we have upgraded our website which you can now view at http://www.homerhickam.com!
Why the change? Well, just to be completely forthcoming, Linda and I did not give up our old website easily.
The Old

After all, we had put a lot of work in it over the years. But finally, we had to face the fact that it was very dated and looked sort of, well, tired. We’d also hung so much stuff on it, we knew it was hard to navigate. We could also tell that many people didn’t read much of anything on it because we received so much email with questions about things that were already on the old site.
So. . .
We took a deep breath and charged into the future with a new HomerHickam.com.
The New

One thing we learned from our new webmeister is that the way people look at websites these days has changed considerably since we created our old site. Internet surfers often use their iphones (or equivalent) to look at the Internet which means we needed to make sure our site looked good on the small screen of a phone as well as a giant screen on a computer. People also don’t like to click on a bunch of topics these days but prefer to scroll down a long, vertical page to see what they want to see. So you’ll notice some of that on our new site although some “clickable” stuff is inevitable.
We also wanted to highlight my new novel, Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, his Wife, and her Alligator. The enthusiasm of our publishers, both domestic and Internationally, has been amazing and early reviews have been spectacular. We hope to engage a new crop of readers for Albert’s story as well as bring along our dear friends and fans who have read my other books.
"Albert" will be published Oct. 13, 2015

As you may notice, the new website has a place to order autographed and inscribed Homer Hickam books, called SHOP. On the other end of that order, you’ll find none other than Linda, my wife, who does this fine service to my readers entirely voluntarily with her little virtual bookstore, KnowInk . Well, I occasionally have to take her on vacation somewhere nice but that’s all. Our cats work for free in the shipping department.
Wyatt, Linda's Shipping Clerk

So be nice to Linda with lots of orders and I promise she’ll be really nice back. And your gift-giving problems will be solved!
And there you have it on our new website. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter on it and also check out the CONNECT page and let us know what you think of the new http://www.homerhickam.com and anything else you’d like us to know concerning my books, events, and so forth.
Aiming high out here as always,
Homer Hickam