Monday, September 21, 2015

Southern Indie Booksellers, Crossword Puzzle Fame, Washington Post, and, of course, Carrying Albert Home to Readers Everywhere

I had a great time with the Southern Independent Booksellers in Raleigh and think I did some good for Carrying Albert Home there.

My part was to speak at the "Taste of HarperCollins Breakfast" on Saturday morning. There was a very nice turnout.

Here are a few photos of that event:

Albert and I are speaking to the audience at the breakfast.
I opened with the story of how I got my name and then eased into the story of Albert.
The reaction of the audience during my talk. We also cried a little.
I choked up when I told how it was I came to write the novel
and also read from the letter I received from my brother after he'd read it.
Albert at the HarperCollins book table at SIBA

Albert and I met our good friend Joshilyn Jackson, fellow
Wm.Morrow/HarperCollins author at SIBA
When the demand was such after my talk that they ran out of Albert advances, HC reps Heidi and Eric found another partial box. Those were mostly gone, too, by the time I'd left.
I talked to as many booksellers as I could. I promised them all my support.
After my talk, lots of store owners begged me to come to their stores. Since I think Carrying Albert Home may be my most important book since Rocket Boys, I honestly wish I could go everywhere.
At least, I was able to promise to Skype with any of their book clubs on Albert IF they purchased ALL their copies from the Indie store.
I strongly believe in Indie booksellers. They have hand sold my books (meaning when people come in looking for a good book, they hand them one of mine) for years and I'm deeply appreciative.
Of course, authors have to be open to all booksellers, the big box stores and even the big on-line sellers because they can make or break a book. At bottom, I just want my fans to be able to find "Albert" and enjoy the family legend of how and why he was carried home.
Remember also, wife Linda now has her own bookstore. To order autographed, inscribed copies of "Albert" and all my books, please go here: Linda's KnowInk Bookstore.
To all the folks who've sent me copies of a crossword puzzle that appeared in papers across the country, I did not buy the entry. If I had, I would've wanted my memoir to be known by its actual title Rocket Boys!
One Down

I had an interesting encounter with The Washington Post last week. One of its editors approached me to write an article about the travails of Ahmed the clock maker, a youngster in Texas who got in trouble for bringing a disassembled digital clock to school which some of the authorities there thought looked like a b-b-b-bomb! I thought it was all pretty crazy and, doubtlessly, the result of the zero-tolerance rules in schools around the country that substitute harsh measures for minor infractions instead of common sense. Since my memoir Rocket Boys has a scene in it where the Big Creek Missile Agency is falsely accused by the school principal and some state police of starting a forest fire, I assumed this was why the editor wanted an article from me.

I'm a fast writer so it didn't take me long to write the article, relating it to the story in Rocket Boys, pointing out that Ahmed was more likely the victim of zero tolerance rules than Islamophobia, mentioned that the folks who are behind Rocket Boys the Musical have offered Ahmed a scholarship at Space Camp (I'm on the board there, by the way), speculated that Ahmed was probably pretty confused about the whole thing, and hoping that he would be as happy at Space Camp as so many really smart (but often picked-on) kids are.

The WPost editor loved my article and wanted to publish it right way but then asked for a one-line bio. I replied with "Homer Hickam is the author of Rocket Boys: A Memoir and, most recently, his novel Carrying Albert Home."
The reply from the editor was, to the effect, that, no, they would say this: "Homer Hickam is a retired NASA engineer."
And I replied, in effect, "I would sooner die than have that as my bio. I am an author, a best-selling one at that, have been for decades, and to be identified as anything else is a poison pill for my writing career."
"But you are a retired NASA engineer, right?" came the rejoinder.
"Yes. John Grisham is a retired lawyer. Stephen King is a retired carpenter. Tom Clancy was a retired insurance broker. John Steinbeck was .... oh, never mind. Please, call me an author or you can't call me anything at all."
"You're pulling the article? We reach a hundred thousand plus readership!"
"Are you going to call me a retired NASA engineer and not an author?"
I pulled the article. Yes, I worked for NASA but, even while there, published Torpedo Junction, the best-selling book about the U-boat wars along our coasts during World War II. I am a writer. That's what I do. My memoir Rocket Boys and all the other Coalwood books were written to describe life in a small West Virginia coal town, and wasn't anything about NASA. My Helium-3 novels were written for a publisher who wanted me to write novels for young adults and I decided to set them on the moon in a mining town. Yes, I know a little about rockets and space and worked in the field for awhile but it's not my driving interest.
Well, I guess you get my drift. Due to the miracle of the Internet, however, I went ahead and published the article myself on this very blog. You can find it right here.
By the way, I've since found out that Ahmed's father is pretty much a jerk. I hope Ahmed still takes us up on the scholarship to Space Camp if only to get away from his situation for awhile.
October 13, 2015 is rapidly approaching. Why am I so interested in that date? It's the first day that Carrying Albert Home is officially available for most folks to read! There are a few places where it will be available a little earlier and you can see those on my book tour appearances list on HomerHickam.com but for the most part, that date is the magic date.

In a way, "Albert" is already a hit. The novel has 14 International publishers (more than Rocket Boys after nearly twenty years!). It has also been selected by a major book club (will announce which later), given several major awards (more on that, can't tell you yet), and will be a Reader's Digest Condensed book!
However, no book is a hit until and unless it is purchased and read. It is my sincere hope that you will read "Albert" and my sincere belief that you will enjoy it. I promise it will make you laugh and it may even make you cry.
Did I mention for autographed, inscribed copies of Carrying Albert Home, don't forget Linda and her very own bookstore? Go here to shop for Christmas, birthdays, and all holidays. Of course, all the other bookselling outlets will be available (alphabetically, note): Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and the Indies, too. You can find them all on www.homerhickam.com.

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