A Brief Summary Of The Life And Times...
OF THE MOST PUBLISHED UNDERPAID AND UNKNOWN WRITER IN THE U.S.
When I was 16, World War II was raging in Europe and the Pacific. I wanted to become a Naval aviator.
That I was born in 1928 instead of 1926 was good news-bad news for me.
The good news was that I was born too late to fly an F-4U in World War II, so I didn't get my tail shot off over the Philippine Sea. The bad news was that I didn't have a chance to be a hero and be elected President like George Bush.
I'm often asked how I became a writer. In high school I won a patriotic essay contest. It was printed in the local paper, the esteemed Holdenville Oklahoma Daily News. I liked seeing my name in print. I worked on the school annual and in college I wrote for the student paper.
I was not an instant process. I had 273 rejections before I finally sold a little poem to a magazine called Driftword and got a check for $10. The magazine went out of business before my masterpiece was published.
In 1961 I submitted my first complete book--all of 50,000 words--to every publisher in the business before working my way down--way, way down--to an outfit called Novel Books. Sooner than I expected, I got a telegram, which said, "If you'll put in some intimate scenes we'll publish your book."
My wife, Lizbeth, and I had made some right contentious grapefruit brandy. I took a bottle of it to my desk and wrote some, hummmm, intimate scenes.
One Day In Hell, my first published book, wasn't a bad book. It was an awful book. The scenes inspired by grapefruit brandy were probably the best part of it.
I quit my job. Being a radio announcer/newsman/disc jockey at WGTO in Cypress Gardens, Florida was giving me an ulcer anyhow.
I became a full time writer. I made $400 the first year mainly from stringing for several North Carolina newspapers. I started looking for jobs, but my wife, Lizbeth, bless her, said, "Let's give it another year or so." She went to work.
I bought an old Harkers Island boat and did some commercial fishing to earn a dollar or two. In the second year my writing income doubled. Skyrocketed to $800. I got a Coast Guard license to carry passengers and ran a few fishing charters. In my third year as a real writer I made, wow, $1,600! But, by golly, I was learning my trade.
I found a niche in in 1965 and turned out paperback books wholesale. I started with a $500 advance and worked up to $1,500 or more.
Odd thing. At $500 advance per book if the break-even point was, say, 20,000 copies, my books sold 19,500 copies. At $1,500, if the break-even point was 150,000 copies, they sold 149,400.
I had a best seller in Germany. A German editor told me I should come over, have a month's vacation, buy a new Mercedes to take home with me, and still have money left over. The publisher said I had nothing coming. I consulted a lawyer, and he found interlinking corporations from Connecticut through Scandinavia, Italy, France and then into Germany. It would have cost more than I'd earned to plow through that legal jungle.
Liz and I did several novels for a book finder that went into multiple printings. Twenty years later he's still holding funds "Reserved For Returns," presumably from book stores on Mars.
Oh, well. I was the darling of the low end of the publishing industry, and there are good and bad operators in any field. I was happy. I was doing what I wanted to do. Lizbeth pulled us through lean periods by working off and on in a variety of fields. In between jobs she helped me write books and did a couple herself, which I edited for her.
It was an up and down life. One year we spent 20 days in Jamaica and paid cash for a new Fiat super coupe. A year of so later we sold furniture out of the house to keep a kid in college.
We built a stone, glass, brick, and board house on Piney Point Creek on Oak Island overlooking a half-mile of saline marsh and the Intracoastal Waterway. I'm not overly sentimental about it, but the stone came from a building which was demolished at my Alma Mater, UNC Chapel Hill. From my office in this pleasant house I've sold over 100 books. I wrote more than that because my best books are still here at home with me.
For example, there's one called The Lost And The Fallen, a fictionalized account of the building of the defenses of Wilmington, North Carolina--the last port open to the Confederacy--and the site of one of the final battles of the Civil War. It's a great story, the product of over 20 years of loving research. Liz and I crawled the overgrown mounds thrown up by a Confederate Army engineer, Gen. William Whiting and found bits of metal left behind by both Union and Confederate soldiers. I've searched out every mention of the final battle of Ft. Fisher, and I peopled the book with authentic Southern people who express Southern views taken from private, unpublished diaries and letters. That makes it politically incorrect, I suppose, even if it is true to history.
Here's another one that's under my desk. A few years ago I did a tour as a trainee mate on an anchor-handling tug in the North Sea oil fields up beyond Scotland and the Shetlands. The waves have a fetch all the way across the Atlantic from Greenland. You wear arctic clothing in July. And up there in some of the roughest waters in the world men performed an engineering feat to rank with the Panama Canal.
The Big Risk is one helluva sea tale. It's so good that during that time in the 1970's when the New York pundits decided that only women buy and read books, an editor at a very big publishing house told me, "Hugh, if you'll make the main character a woman, we'll publish it." She wasn't asking much, except that the book is a sea tale about two Americans--the captain and a trainee mate--on an anchor handling tug in the middle of the North Sea for 30 days at a time with 14 Spanish seamen, a Spanish cook, and two Scottish engineers.
TIME FLIES WHEN YOU'RE HAVING FUN
From 1963 to 1993 I was a member of an elite minority. I was a full time free lance writer.
Why a closing date? Why 1993? Well, having all of our eggs in one basket was becoming just a little too exciting as we neared the time to file for Medicare. Our only security was my next book. I gave my panting little fiction-writing gray cells a break. After all, I had written more than 100 books since 1963. We concentrated on relieving ourselves from total dependence on editors. By May of 1993 we had established an income that made us independent of the publishing industry.
Now I write what I want to write when I want to write it, but I write. My work habits are long established. I've heard people who have written a book or two say, "I work only when I am inspired." Well, kiddies, I saw to it that inspiration struck me every morning between 8 and 9 a.m. because we liked eating. I'm still in the office around that time most mornings unless our business has taken us to some exciting place like Las Vegas or New Orleans or Disney World. I do a lot of promotion and publicity writing for the business, and I do story outlines when I come up with what I feel is a good idea for a book of fiction. I take time now and then to redo one of the books under my desk which, in my humble opinion, is worthy of publication.
AIN'T LIFE GRAND?
Since I walked out of that last time-clock job in February of 1963 thumbing my nose at my boss, we've had a ball! I haven't hit that ten million dollar best seller yet, but I've sold over 100 books in just about any genre you want to name. I've got a scrapbook full of newspapers articles about that prolific writer from Yaupon Beach, and we've done the radio-TV tour thing. I've had a Book Of The Month Club selection and won the Southern Book Award. My Science Fiction books were nominated quite regularly--and by guys like Theodore Sturgeon, for Nebula awards. Of Love And Battle, a book Liz and I did together, was First Runner-up for the West Coast Review of Books top award. Not bad, when you consider that over 20,000 paperback books were published that year.
The 14 White Indian books I did for Book Creations were on the book store best seller lists. I've sold movie rights on one book and an option on another. My Science Fiction books have been published in most of the major languages and pirated in Japan.
My "serious" novels under my own name got rave reviews from tough critics in places like the New York Times and The New Yorker. I've had other good reviews from The Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and newspapers all over the United States.
I haven't published a book of fiction in several years, but I still get mail. Nice people from all over the world tell me they are reading and enjoying my work, even though most of my books are out of print and hard to find. It looks as if some of them are becoming minor cult classics. Used copies are listed at very impressive prices on Net sites such as www.bibliofind.com. I've had to buy a couple myself, and at prices in multiples of the original cost.
COMING UP SOON
The exact release date is as yet undetermined, but
my next book is a rather large non-fiction tome for all those who work in sales,
public relations, Network Marketing, and in any field where people skills are required.
Readers of self-improvement and PMA books will also find The ABC's Of Success
I'll let you know when it's available. In the meantime, as I said, it's a great life, isn't it?
Warm Body: 1-800-272-5984
Eastern Time, Please.
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This Page was last updated: 11/04/98