Friday, October 13, 2017


I've migrated all my old blog entries over to my website at Come read these old blog entries along with many new ones there.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Living in the house of comic book hero

ⓒ 1943 The Parents Magazine Press

I like to think about those who were here before us. It’s easy to forget there have been generations of others who moved through the same spaces and places through which we move today. Because I work at the Newseum, which is built on the same site as Washington, D.C.’s National Hotel, I get to spend my days in the same area where Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Abraham Lincoln all spent time. It was also where Henry Clay lived when he was in Washington and where actor John Wilkes Booth planned the assassination of Lincoln.
If that isn’t cool enough, I spend my evenings and weekends in the former home of the late John and Barbara Hasey. John F. Hasey had a fascinating career as a salesman for Cartier in Paris, World War II hero, senior official with the CIA and writer. 

Backyard by John F. Hasey

And, as you can still see from my backyard even 12 years after his death, he was also a gifted gardener.

Hasey, who was born in Brockton, Mass., and attended Columbia University, moved to France in 1923 to enroll at the Sorbonne. To make money to pay for school, he answered a classified ad and got a job with Cartier who was looking for a salesman who could speak English. Hasey worked for Cartier in Paris, Cannes, Deauville and Monte Carlo, and he became very successful at selling high-end jewelry to the rich and famous.

John Hasey's 1944 autobiography

According to his 1944 autobiography, “Yankee Fighter,” his clients included one royal couple that was making a lot of news at the time:
"The Windsor’s fell within my jurisdiction because, although it had not been actually agreed, it had been understood that I would have first claim on the sale of jewelry to English or American clients or prospective clients. I don’t know directors were startled when they heard that I wanted to walk where angels feared to tread, or whether they considered that I was an American from Bridgewater and that the Duchess was an American from Baltimore, and that I had already had some success with Americans. At any rate, whatever influenced them, I was given the opportunity. In the end, I think I got to know them as well, if not better, that any salesman in the shop…As soon as they were settled in the Hotel Meurice, the Duchess sent over some of her pieces of jewelry to be cleaned. I looked them over and found engraved on the backs “Wallis from David.” A few of them surprised me they were dated so far back…on the inside of a sapphire-and-diamond ring was engraved in what looked like Edward’s hand: "W—really forever—D."   
In 1938, the Soviet Union invaded Finland and started what came to be known as the Winter War. Hasey recruited other Americans in Paris at the time to raise money for two ambulances and he headed to the front to help support the cause. During a battle, his forearm was shattered.

John F. Hasey after his initial war injury

While his wounds were healing, World War II began and, once he was ready for battle, Hasey joined the French Foreign Legion. In the 1941 Battle for Syria, Hasey was 24 and serving as a sub-lieutenant when his right jaw and larynx were shot away by enemy machine gun fire. He was publicly honored by Charles de Gaulle as the first American to shed his blood for Free France and one of only four Americans (including Dwight D. Eisenhower) decorated with France's highest World War II honor, Companion of the Order of the Liberation. 

As journalist Alex Chadwick reported in a segment for NPR in 2005—which includes a recording of an earlier 1990 interview with Hasey—his second injury didn’t keep him from contributing to the war effort:
By the time he'd recuperated back in the States, the US was in the war, but the military thought Jack was too disabled to enlist. He returned to London, worked as a go-between for de Gaulle and the American commander, Dwight Eisenhower. He went to Paris ahead of the Allied troops, driving into the city on one side as the Germans were fleeing from the other. Everyone else got to Paris a couple of days later. Listen to the segment

Cover of comic book about John F. Hasey
ⓒ 1943 The Parents Magazine Press

In 1943, a children’s comic book, “Yank with the Fighting French,” was produced as part of a series about real heroes.

Barbara and John Hasey

After the war, Eisenhower recruited Hasey to work for the CIA, and his first job was to help de Gaulle write his memoirs (and keep an eye on the French leader). In 1953, Hasey married Barbara Trood who was attending school in London and together they made their home in Arlington, Va. Hasey retired from the CIA in 1974 and spent time with his children and grandchildren here at the house in which my family and I now live.

Interestingly for me, as I wrote this, I discovered another connection between Hasey and myself. Much of the planning for the American’s ambulance service during the Winter War in 1930 was done at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. In my just-released biography of Odd McIntyre, “An Odd Book,” I wrote about McIntyre’s love of Harry’s Bar and how he spent time there with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and others.

That means Hasey sat in a bar where McIntyre once sat, while I wrote about a book about McIntyre while sitting in the study where Hasey once sat.

Further proof that sometimes we’re more connected to those who came before us than we even realize.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It's Time to Start Writing That Book You've Been Thinking About

I’ve spoken with many talented people in the last few months who have a book they want to write, but don’t exactly know where to start once the writing part is done. Most think they need a “publishing deal” to get their work in front of readers, but we all know publishing deals are few and far between these days.

My first book, “The Forgotten Adventures of Richard Halliburton: From Tennessee to Timbuktu,” was published through traditional channels with The History Press, but they, along with a couple book agents, passed on my idea of a book about Odd McIntyre. Even without a publisher, I felt it was a story that people would find interesting. After doing a year or so of research on Odd, I felt like I had what I needed — a good story that had not been told and a lot of good information to tell it.
I began exploring self-publishing and discovered a whole world of writers who are passionate about writing but who skip the publishers and take their books directly to consumers.

Just like the significant changes in the music, movie and news industries brought about by technology in the last few years, the world of publishing is being dramatically impacted by the fact that those who are willing to learn a few new skills can take a book directly to the marketplace with very financial little investment or risk.

My book, “An Odd Book: How the First Modern Pop Culture Reporter Conquered New York,” will be published (by me) on April 1.
In the last few months I’ve spent hundreds of hours listening to podcasts, downloading “how to” books and reading about self-publishing online. I’m sharing some of what I’ve discovered, hoping that it may be helpful to some of my friends and associates who are interested in self-publishing their own books.

The business of self-publishing is quickly evolving and the different directions you can take and resources that are available are almost endless, so these are just the tools I’ve found helpful, and those I think would be most applicable to the most people, regardless of the type of book.
The first thing I would recommend is to join the Alliance of Independent Authors. In addition to some helpful guides and discounts, its members-only message board on Facebook has been incredibly valuable. Questions about writing, publishing, distribution and marketing are answered almost immediately by other members, many who have been self-publishing for a decade or more. 

The weekly podcasts that I’ve found most helpful are The Creative Penn Podcast by Joanna Penn (I’ve also downloaded some of her other tools), The Publishing Profits Podcast Show by Tom Corson-Knowles and The Sell More Books Show by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen. I listened to these three podcasts every week for months, and also listened to some of their recent archived shows. I didn’t go too far back because this industry is changing quickly. There is a monthly podcast called the ALLi Author Advice Centre by Orna Ross that is also very helpful and features a lot of the self-publishing superstars sharing advice and case studies.

This is a minor detail but one I found interesting so I am sharing. While it’s not “required,” you will want your own ISBN number for the work you create. That little number uniquely identifies your book, and facilitates the sale of your book to bookstores (physical and digital) and libraries. In the United States, you can only buy those from Bowker. For some reason, one ISBN is $125 while 10 ISBNs are only $295. I love a deal so I bought 10. Now I’m obligated to produce more books so my ISBN numbers don’t go to waste.

Of course, I’m assuming you’re starting with a great book that’s been professionally edited and has a well-designed cover. Should you need resources for those services, there’s a really interesting company called fiverr. Fiverr is primarily used by freelancers who offer services like website design, copywriting, editing, graphic design, marketing and more. People who use the freelancers then rate and comment on the service they received. It’s also a great place to find a “virtual assistant” who can do work for you a few hours a week or for an extended period of time. Most authors advocate getting a few people in your “production team” that you go back to for each book.

I wanted to sharpen my web design and production skills so I spent a weekend designing a site on, only to discover a site built using and hosted on a server was much better for me for a variety of reasons, so I spent another weekend doing it all over again, hosting on Bluehost.

The sales of a self-published book is directly tied to the number of people who hear about it, so building an email list is important. I used MailChimp and found it to be pretty intuitive (sign up for my enewsletter here).

There are many different ways you can go about getting your book in the hands of readers. After much thought and research, I decided to use CreateSpace to sell my book on Amazon and to print copies for selling at signings and events, IngramSpark to sell to libraries and book stores, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for those who want to download the e-book to their Kindle, and Smashwords for those buyers who want to download it via e-book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Tolino and others. Each of these requires the book to be uploaded in a specific format, so you have to start the process knowing there is going to be the need for flexibility, patience and time.

The retail price of my printed book will be $18.99 and the price of the e-book will likely be around $7.99, but it has no photos. The printed book has 135 photos, many of which have never been printed before so I hope more people purchase that.

I wrote “An Odd Book” in Microsoft Word, and then uploaded it to InDesign, which offered more flexibility in design, layout and photo manipulation. Because I had not used InDesign before, I spent quite a bit of time watching Youtube videos from Joel Friedlander and Sean Foushee, among others, until I got the hang of it (I still have a long way to go). I also discovered Vellum. It is a miracle application. Once the book was completely finished in InDesign and ready to upload as a print-ready PDF file, I needed to create a different version for the e-book. Chapter by chapter, I rebuilt the book (minus the photos) using Vellum. It only took a couple of hours. Vellum then automatically stripped out all the InDesign formatting and created files that work with all the e-book distributors who use different formats. Just to see if it would really work, in one weekend, 

I created an entire book using Vellum (Odd Words, 1920-1922: An Enhanced Compilation of Early Columns by Odd McIntyre) and had it available for Kindle on Amazon. I had around 400 (free) downloads the first couple of days. I can’t recommend Vellum enough.

You do want to have a launch event of some kind. Mine will be in Odd’s hometown of Gallipolis, Ohio on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 4:30 p.m. at the Ariel Opera House. That evening, The Ohio Valley Symphony will perform Meredith Willson’s O.O. McIntyre Suite. If you are in Ohio, come check it out. It should be a lot of fun.

As I mentioned before, all this takes a lot of time, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money. The key is to focus on the things you do well or want to learn, but have a little money planned for the things that are not in your wheelhouse. With a modest investment, you can hire professionals to do the things you don’t want or need to jump into.

While the differences between self-publishing and using a traditional publisher are many, one thing remains the same. You need a well-written book that looks like a book that’s well written.

I’ll post a few months from now about what I’ve learned from the actual publishing and launch of my book, but I hope those of you with a story or two crawling around in your head feel inspired to get started on your own book.