Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Spring 2011 Newsletter from Homer and Linda Hickam

Homer Hickam Newsletter      
Spring, 2011
Dear Gentle and Prodigious Readers,
Spring always brings new life to our hills and valleys in North Alabama and into our lives, too.  But, this year, it also brought the pain and pangs of the end of life.  Although T.S. Eliot claimed April was the "cruelest month," March, 2011 was a very cruel month because we lost our dear kitty Maxx, a marvelous torbie Manx, whom we had the happiness of living with for twenty years.  She was my little girl and I will miss her as long as I live. This was only a little more than five months after we lost our 19-year old little black and white furchild Flopsy so we are mourning both Maxx and Flopsy while also celebrating all the love and laughter they brought into our lives.

Maxx hoops
Flopsy plays

The world goes on, however, and so shall we.  The budding trees remind us that time and tide do not wait for any man, woman, or circumstance, and that to look only backwards is ultimately self-defeating.  We are looking forward to the future and all the good things we trust await us there.  We still have Mango and our two fluffies (China and Summer) and they delight us every day. 
Linda and Mango

Summer loves fine literature

China loves to get into baskets, large and small
The new goldfish in our pond
We've also added a school of eight new goldfish to the pond and they're settling in nicely.

Linda and her RocketCityGlassGirls (more on them below in Linda's section) are working hard to get ready for Panoply, a large art show in Huntsville.  Their artistic work is amazing and I'm proud of what Linda is doing with the other ladies in their glassworks. The best, most current way to see their work is to “like” their group on Facebook, RocketCityGlassGirls

As you'll also read, I've just finished a novel that may very well turn into a series, and I'll include some of my other writing ventures, too.  We hope you enjoy reading about our lives and our adventures.  If you like, please comment and let us know your thoughts as well and of course, you can "like" me on Facebook too.  Just go to the Homer Hickam Official Page!

In November, 2010, The Dinosaur Hunter was released upon an unsuspecting public.  Happily, that same public received it very well.   It was even an alternate selection of the Book of the Month Club and the Mystery Book of the Month Club!   We also ran a very successful "Get Caught Reading The Dinosaur Hunter" contest with some great, entertaining entries that you can see on our earlier newsletter/blog.  Burke Allen of Allen Media Strategies, in association with St. Martin's (the publisher of TDH), set up a great series of radio and television interviews.  For those of you who, through some terrible oversight, haven't read the novel yet, go HERE to read more about it and order up a copy!

Usually, I get a little time off before starting another book but this time the way the schedule worked, I needed to start the next novel essentially the minute I'd finished The Dinosaur Hunter.   But schedule requirements and the art form don't always see eye-to-eye and, in truth, I struggled with the new novel at first.  I had told the publisher (the prodigious Thomas Nelson Publishers) that I was going to set it on the moon in the future.  That left a lot of room for what was going to happen in the novel.  It took a long while, and many false starts, before the story finally came to me but when it did, I knew I was on to something.  It has always been my belief that when writing any story, it's best to understand that what people are really interested in is other people.  Well, I had a marvelous lead character (protagonist as we novelists call such) with many other interesting and unique characters around him and the story just flowed.  It takes place on the moon 120 years in the future.

After they read Helium 3: Crater, readers will know what it will be like
 to live (and sometimes die) on the moon. Of course, as with most of my work,they'll enjoy an adventure and a laugh or three.
Crater Trueblood is a fifteen-year old orphan living in Moontown, a tiny town dedicated to mining Helium-3, the fuel of the future.  Moontown is a harsh, demanding place but Crater loves his life and especially his job as a miner on the heel-3 scrapes.  Then, foul play ensues and Crater finds himself on a river of dust with his gillie, a clump of slime mold cells fashioned into a friend and a helper, on a mission to retrieve a remarkable treasure that could well change the future of the moon and the Earth. A little steampunk in character and approach, my novel was so well received by Thomas Nelson that my editor has already proposed that it be turned into a Young Adult series titled Helium 3.  I'm amenable to this.  The first book will be subtitled Crater.

Home page of the Rocket Boys, The Musical!
Here's something really fun.  As part of its development and march toward Broadway, Rocket Boys, The Musical is going to be presented in full by Theatre West Virginia this summer!  I could not possibly be more tickled by this.  Theatre West Virginia is a remarkable organization and I, and all the creators of the show, are proud to be associated with these fine folks.  For more on Theatre West Virginia, go HERE and for more about the musical go HERE .

As of the writing of this newsletter, we anticipate it will be presented at Theatre West Virginia August 25 through September 4. We hope to see all of you there!  For those who are wondering if the show is coming to your city, town, burg, or country, the answer is yes!  We intend to go everywhere!  But the show is presently in its development stage so hang tough and tight!  But, of course, you could just come on to West Virginia to see it NOW!!

As always, if you'd like an autographed and/or inscribed copy of any of my books, please go HERE and click on the white gift with the green ribbon.

Since our last newsletter at Christmas, we've been sticking a little close to home for various reasons.  As mentioned above, I was deep into writing the Helium 3: Crater novel.  January also seems to be a good time for us to go in for our various medical and dental checks.  I'm happy to report all exams found nothing dire.  In fact, Linda and I are pretty healthy although recently I've been having trouble with my lower back.  The suspicion is too many hours sitting in this chair writing!  But I love what I do and don't see stopping any time soon although we have some remedies in mind that might help.  More on that probably in the next newsletter!

Not Maxx's favorite time, a visit by our wonderful Doorstep Vet
Another reason we were staying close to home was worry about Maxx, our 20-year old Manx kitty.  Maxx was definitely the light in her daddy's eye and we loved her.  As mentioned above, we had lost our darling 19-year old Flopsy only five months before so we were very concerned about Maxx.  She was getting weaker, that much we could see, but she still seemed to have the same personality and spunk she'd always had.  We were hoping for a few more years with her—I guess we're greedy that way—and we had her on a variety of medicines that seemed to help.

Nice rainbow view from one of the outside showers

Photo taken from our Skyridge Cam at dusk
In February, we left Maxx and the other kitties in the capable hands of Kelly, our wonderful cat-sitter, and headed to St. John to spend some time at our beloved Skyridge and with our St. John friends.  We had a great time snorkeling, hiking, and working on the house and enjoying it, too.  I'm happy to report the gate was working perfectly, the plants and trees recovering nicely from the last hurricane, and the island a perfect escape for us as always. We so enjoy looking every day at the live webcam installed on our deck there, Skyridge Cam .
Maxx looking outside.
At 17, she became an indoor cat although
we still took her outside for walks.

We returned and I kept working on the new novel and Linda kept working on taxes, the office, and with her Rocket City Glass Girls (more on that below).  Maxx seemed OK although we kept worrying about her with frequent checks by our Doorstep vet. On March 10, I packed my suitcase, patted Maxx on the head, told her to be a good girl, and headed to Allen, a burgeoning city next door to Dallas, to celebrate Rocket Boys as its annual community read.  Just as I walked into my hotel room, my cell phone rang and it was Linda in tears.  Maxx was very ill.  Linda took her to the emergency vet and there, in her mama's arms, Maxx left us, crossing that rainbow bridge.  

We were both heartbroken, of course.  When I'm somewhere to give a speech or make an appearance, I try to give them every molecule of my energies and attention and Allen definitely deserved that so I did my best but it was hard.  HERE is a story on my stay in that wonderful Texas city.  Now, after more than a month of her being gone, we still find ourselves shedding tears over Maxx and the house seems a bit empty without her.  I think nearly everyone who reads this newsletter also loves their pets so we know you understand how we feel.  Anyway, we'll miss Maxx forever.  She was a great cat and a prodigious lady.

Maxx Terry Hickam, 1991-2011, Rest in Peace, Pretty Girl

Linda and Homer at Rockwood Manor
We recently got back from Radford University where I was honored to speak about wonderful teachers at the presentation of the annual McGlothlin Awards.  Linda and I felt right at home at Radford, where I used to visit very occasionally when I went to Virginia Tech back in the early 1960's.  At that time, Radford was a women's school and Virginia Tech essentially mostly males so we Tech boys tended to go there, hoping to find a date.  Sometimes, we even got one!  Anyway, although it is now co-ed, Radford still has lovely ladies attending and it was good to see and talk to them. We stayed at a beautiful B&B near Radford which we highly recommend, Rockwood Manor .

We also got the chance while in Virginia to visit fellow Coalwood Rocket Boys Jimmie O'Dell Carroll.  We had a great visit.  While there, we took the opportunity for a photo op with him, me, and a certain book (although on the mass market paperback we're holding, it's slightly mistitled).
O'Dell and I hold October Sky (aka Rocket Boys) on his beautiful farm in Virginia
A future journey will include a trip to Reno, Nevada, on August 20, 2011, for the annual Vietnam Veterans of America convention where I will receive the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award.  I am grateful and honored to receive this award.  I am in good company here.  Other recipients include Tim O'Brien, Philip Caputo, and Oliver Stone.  A little more about this can be found HERE.  This summer will also include my annual dinosaur hunting in Montana, another trek to Skyridge in St. John, and probably some surprises.

Ahead, I'm sure there will be many other journeys and we look forward to them all.  As ever, we appreciate your interest in our lives and our work.  Linda and I send our very best to you and your families and we wish you a prodigious summer! 

Your writer and friend,
Homer Hickam


Ahhh, little Maxx, how we miss that bright girl! She was full of purrsonality. But our lover boy Mango does his best and the Fluffies keep us laughing at their foolishness, and we go on. That our primary family, the original four that Homer and I had as our furchildren are now all passed, makes us very sad. 
Our original four furchildren in a painting by Karen Rouse.  L to R:  Batman, Paco, Flopsy, Maxx
 We were very privileged to have them all for very long cat lives, but never long enough. . .
The "new kids" are a joy though, especially "my" lover boy Mango who sleeps on me every night.
Summer and Mango playing
China aligning her spine in Homer's office
Linda's Mom opening gifts in March
 A huge blessing is that my folks are doing great. Mom is finally feeling like herself after a very rough winter with her back operation and recovery, and Dad keeps busy feeding the birds, yardwork and more, at 89! They finally felt well enough, and so our large family gathered to feast and enjoyed the Terry Christmas this month.

Panoply, the big art show Homer mentioned, is coming up April 29 – May 1 and has been keeping Pat, Carol and I - the RocketCityGlassGirls - VERY busy in the studio making lots of pretty fused glass to sell. We have a lot of fun and make beautiful art too!
We were very honored to be asked to be Featured Artists at the show, but had really let our inventory get way down at Christmas. What fun it has been to get it back up! We came up with "Bonefish" and "Catfishin'" wind chimes, lots of beautiful bowls and plates, and tons of jewelry pendants. We have begun to sell online and mail, and everything we make is one-of-a-kind so if you see something you want, get in touch quickly!  The most current way to see our work is to “like” us on the group on Facebook, RocketCityGlassGirls  You can message us there. We are coming up with a special fused glass collectable autographed rocket ornament. . . but sadly, our rocket designs have not passed Chief Scientist HHH’s inspection yet!

Miscellaneous simple pendants

"Crazy Lady" pendants by RCGG Carol, a teacher who feels like this some days!

6" X 12.5" fused art glass trays

Happy Spring!!  Linda


  1. Great newsy newsletter! Linda, your Mom looks Great! I'm sure that you're grateful and happy that her initial wobbly recovery has turned out so well. And, the check is in the mail for my glass art! Can't wait. Homer, here is a back book for you: "Pain Free" by Pete Egoscue. He's written a companion volume called "Pain Free at Your PC." I know, you work on a MAC, but still...it is definitely all that sitting that is causing the stress. Those two books work for me, and I recommend them to anyone who has lower back pain. I love your new book series idea! Reminds me of Heinlein's novels for young adults. Your eulogy for Maxx was very touching. It's never easy to lose a best friend.

  2. Hi Homer and Linda.....My heart breaks when reading about Maxx and Flopsy as I have a few aging fur babies here as well. Your cats are beautiful. I trapped 6 throw- aways here in this apartment complex just prior to my neck surgery and was only to rehabilitate one. Still looking for a home for Bashful. The outside cats tell one another about this crazy lady who puts food out....so each night, sadly, about 7 homeless and ferals come to feast.

    I love that you care so deeply about your fur family. I am excited about all of your news....especially the musical. I'm still healing.......but hope to get to see you soon. I have a certain "Shape Sis" who has a bday coming up next month!! xooxo Jolie

  3. Homer & Linda:
    Two weeks ago this Friday, our little black dog, Casey, had to cross that rainbow bridge, and your words in your newsletter were very comforting. The emptiness in our house--and our hearts--is difficult right now, but we know that time will help. We'll never forget our faithful friend and the memories she was such a part of. I know how you feel right now about Maxx and Flopsie. It's truly amazing how the routine, mundane things such as hearing her moving about our house, drinking her water, clanking the bowl with her collar as she eats are no longer there! I have been unable to get serious about my writing these last few weeks, but I know there's a story in there where our good friend plays a key role. All the best to you and Linda and your furry friends for a wonderful Easter. What a time for new life!

  4. I enjoyed your news letter, thanks you. You are both such good examples of living life to the fullest! My condolences on the loss of Maxx and Fopsy. I've learned that no matter how great the pain of the departure of a furry loved one is, even more great is the comfort, laughter and joy they rendered to us during their lives.

  5. It's so amazing how these little creatures can worn their way into your heart. We are so different ... it's almost like they are little space aliens ... yet we can connect on a level that's meaning full for both species. Maxx and Flopsy were well loved and had a long, wonderful life thanks to you, Linda and Homer. Grieve well and completely but open your hearts to some new kitties as soon as you can.

    Being a fellow Manx owner, I had written to Homer and Linda some years back about our two. Don't think I wrote that in '08, our beloved stumpy/Cymric, Cricket, slipped out for an unauthorized patrol one evening and never returned. Yeah, we know how you guys feel . Hate to say it but I haven't cried that much for people I've lost in my life. It was especially hard since little Crickie was only about four years old. At least 10 miles were hiked in her rescue effort but no trace was ever found... until about two weeks ago. I found her remains in a hollow log I just happened to look into. The agonizing part is that it was only about a hundred yards from the house. We live in rural farmland with miles of woods beside and behind us. I walked most of it, during hunting season no less, searching for her and there she was almost within sight. Wild critters are a real danger to our cats here, raccoons especially. All the cats are rescues and all had been outside cats... something that is very difficult to train out of them. Cricket was an especially adept Houdini imitator.

  6. Enjoyed the newsletter, thanks for the update. Sorry about Maxx, My wife, Jan is still mourning the death of our dog Vixen, she was such a great friend and backyard security to her. Life goes on we just have to savor the memories.

  7. Dear Homer and Linda,
    I'm so sorry for the loss of Maxx and Flopsy.I, too, know how sad it is to lose a member of the family.
    Congratulations on all of the success, you both are experiencing. I am happy that you are well and truly enjoying life.
    I hope to see you when Jim and I make it to Huntsville, the next time around.

  8. In 1995, my daughter, adopted two precious "Morris look alikes", while in high school. 3 weeks prior to getting her MAT, in '2004, her husband hit a semi 1/2 stopped in I65, killing her immediately. Losing each of them one by one '09 and '10, were the last pieces I had left of my precious 26 year old, so the hole is even deeper. Creamating them, my daughter, who lives in Huntsville and works at Marshall came home to have a "memorial" service with her and bury them with her....how much family our pets are, loving and caring so unconditionally. How I cried knowing how you feel and will continue to feel. If you haven't read, Homer's Odyssey, you must. It is the story of (a NY times best seller for eons) a awesome black, blind cat and on FB you will read so many stories of how cats enrich, enlarge and actually prolong life of many older adults. Your writing, as ever is so prolific and exciting. My daughter looks forward to discovering Linda's new arts in Huntsville at her show. You didn't say, or I missed where it was going to be.
    Louisville, Ky

  9. As a fellow cat lover you have my condolences on the passing of your pets. Been through that too, too many times.

    As a fellow past resident of the USVI I share your love of the islands and especially St. John. Lived in the islands for over 4 years.

    Your books inspire and delight and are a clear extension of your zest for progress. It is especially encouraging to see your focus on helping both youngsters and their teachers gain and strengthen that same focus.

    Best to you,

    Waddell Robey

  10. I am so sorry to hear about your loss of Maxx and Flopsy. We recently lost our beloved Murphy, our sweet cocker spaniel mix that we rescued from a shelter many years ago. About five weeks ago, we also lost our Isabella - our sweet kitty who very much resembles Maxx. Our pets are truly "our babies," and we grieve over the loss, so we truly understand the sadness that you are experiencing.

    Homer, glad to hear about the new book and look forward to reading it.

    Linda, love the glass art pieces are beautiful. You should consider a travel up the road a few miles to Fayetteville, TN during the fabulous "Host of Christmas Past" to display some of these gorgeous pieces. We have a couple of galleries that would love to show them off!

    Kind regards,
    Paula Whitaker Whisenant
    Fayetteville, Tennessee

  11. My husband and I are West Virginia baby boomers transplanted to Illinois, and we loved your Rocket Boys trilogy. (Folks, if you haven't read Coalwood Way and Sky of Stone, you must!)

    I want to share with you that we made a longtime dream come true in February when we went to Florida to see a shuttle launch. By coincidence, we met a Mr. Jones, a retired NASA employee who lives in Titusville along the river. He was so proud of his town and the space program that he invited us to watch the launch from his backyard! What a glorious day! We lament the coming end to the program that inspired us as young people, and our children, too.

    Thank you for your work in the U.S. space program, your writings, and your blog. Each one enriches our lives.

  12. I want to say I am so sorry to hear about your loss of your 2 babies. I am a cat lover as well and I couldnt imagine life without them. I am a college student and I am doing research on you for one of my classes."Strategies for Success" I want to thank you for your words of inspiration, I look forward to reading more in the future.