Born in eastern Ohio, Tom grew up tossing newspapers, mowing the cemetery and camping with his family in a tent trailer. Banging on a bass drum and running student council scared the principal enough to allow Tom to graduate from high school. He then migrated to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University where he ran student government while completing his B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
Skiing, open spaces and a disk drive manufacturer brought him to Colorado. He met his wife there, which changed his passion from flying airplanes to tent camping, buying houses and raising their daughter while completing his MBA from Colorado State. But he always retained his love for history and researching what really happened way back when. Thirty some odd years later, he is ready to give up the corporate grind to spend more time with his wife and two grandkids.
Your writing journey:
The picture of the young soldier with the sticky-out ears graced my mother-in-law’s kitchen forever. When asked, she replied that her younger brother, Donnie, disappeared during the Korean War at the tender age of eighteen. In 2010, my wife, Sandy, and I set out to discover what happened to Cpl. Donald Matney and bring him home. Our journey would take us to Washington, DC, Seoul, Korea and many places in between. But slowly, carefully, step-by-step, we reconstructed the short life of Sandy’s Uncle Donnie, identified his remains, and returned him to rest by his mother’s side in Missouri.
I started writing the book in 2016 as we felt that Donnie Matney’s story had broad appeal and would bring hope to others who have lost loved ones during armed conflict. We had researched much about the Korean War and discovered that most of our acquaintances knew nothing about it. So, we included an overview of the war along with Donnie’s story and our efforts to locate him in the book.
Researching what happened to Donnie was a challenge. The first three years, we requested information from the army and received standard briefing reports about his unit and the battles it fought in Korea. Most of the specific detailed information about his service was destroyed in a fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in 1974. We finally received basic information, like his specialty, travel to Japan, and job assignment, from the assigned Army Service Casualty officer. Finding information about the Korean War was easy, as numerous first and secondhand narratives exist. Winnowing down that information to what was pertinent to Donnie Matney was a major chore. But luckily, a number of books mention his company and even interviewed his Master Sergeant. We also had other families with MIA relatives who we shared information. One if these helped us identify potential unknown soldiers who might have been Donnie. One fit what we knew about Donnie’s travels and we petitioned the army to disinter. The army agreed and a year and a half later he was identified.
All of our research was digitized. Once he was identified and reburied, we decided the story needed to be told. I expanded my research and look at more obscure websites and out of print books. Some panned out but most didn’t. I completed a first draft of the book in early 2019 and asked a number of friends and relatives to critic it. I also started sending query letters to potential agents. Though the critics helped reshape the book, none of the over 250 query letters sent to agents helped. Less than 10% even bothered to reply. I decided to self-publish.
I have been impressed with the company that I chose. Though not the lowest cost, they did a great job helping me edit the final book and made it look very professional. They helped with the cover art and acquiring rights for specific historical pictures included in the book. I did contract with them for additional marketing help. Some has been worthwhile but a lot of it has not been worth the expense. Of course, Covid knocked out traditional bookstores and many news outlets. I do have a Publicist under contract for 12-weeks and am about halfway through their efforts. They have gotten me a number of reviews and interviews and have been well worth the expense. I also am impressed with the response the book has received doing a give-away on Goodreads.
So far, I have four major reviews posted, plus the usual number of good (and bad) reader reviews on Amazon, Google and other sites. Sales were very slow the first couple of months, but have been picking up lately as the reviews and publicity have kicked in. As this is my first book, it has been a challenge to know what will help promote it. I have lately been doing an email campaign of college professors who might have an interest. About one in ten respond. But one of those who responded turned out to be a 95-year old veteran who was there and has proven to be very insightful and reaffirming. Will he help promote the book? I just hope he gives me a good review.
Anything else you feel like sharing:
I am kicking around ideas and research for a follow-on book but have not yet started putting anything on paper.