Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Flash Fiction (page 1 of 3)

Black Death


Japanese_RentanBlack Death

I had plenty of cultural things to learn when I arrived in Korea back in 1990 such as the black cylindrical briquette canisters, about the size of a can of motor oil that were once predominantly used as a source of fuel for cooking and heating in Korea. Problem was when these briquettes, called yontan in Korean were burned in short, squat barrel-shaped stoves they produced black soot that got on everything. Even if you didn’t burn your own yontan, it was still everywhere. Take down a picture from the wall and you would see its black outline. Go to bed at night; in the morning there would be a film of black grit everywhere. Even my white dress shirts and t-shirts, which I hung to dry in the laundry room next to the kitchen, soon were imbued with a grayish tint. Breathing in that shit wasn’t good for you either. I must have coughed up a bucket of black mucous that first winter.

I bitched and moaned when I had to clean up that black soot on the kitchen table, my desk, and the television every morning, sometimes again at night. Sometimes I forgot and after a while I got used to it until I heard what happened to the family of five who lived in the apartment next to mine. They died of carbon monoxide poisoning last night. Someone forgot to open a window.

Yikes! $178.05 for a hardcover edition of War Remains!

The other day my friend Dave Steele (author of the Sexton series) sent me an email informing me that a hardcover edition of War Remains was going for $178.05!

“That’s no misprint Jeffrey,” Dave went on to say in his email.

$178.05. I was going to have to check that out for myself.

Dave was right. Not only was a hardcover edition of War Remains going for that exorbitant price, my other two books, Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst and Damaged Goods also had similarly priced editions.

Turns out some third-party seller is selling the books for this price and making (if someone is foolish enough to pay that kind of money for my books) a lot of money. I wrote to Amazon and they informed me that there was nothing that they can do.

In the meantime, if you want paperback or hardcover editions of any of my books, please go to Lulu. They are much cheaper, I promise you.

Damaged Goods — I have my copy, do you?

In the mail today, my copy of Damaged Goods, a collection of short fiction or flash fiction.


It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s your first book or in my case, your third book, the wonderful feeling you have holding your book in your hands. This is your creation, something you worked hard on many days and nights, writing and revising and in the back of your mind, hoping that people will enjoy reading it one day.

I love the stories in this collection.  Let me rephrase that, I’m proud of the stories in this collection.

Now, how would you like to hold a copy of this book in your hands?

“War Hero” — Damaged Goods

When I was a young boy, I remember hearing my Grandpa Hahn tell the story about a story he had been told when he was a young boy in the late 1890s about how one of his relatives had shot himself in the foot to get out of serving in the 1861-1865 War Between the States.

Whether that story was true or not, it is what I used to start off my flash fiction story, “War Hero” — the story of a young man coming home from World War II after having been wounded in the Hurtgen Forest.

This story is one of 28 stories in Damaged Goods, now available through Lulu.

“Style before Gel” — Damaged Goods

The back story for “Style before Gel” dates back to 1980 when I saw David and the Happenings for the first time at SIU (Southern Illinois University) and three times in Chicago, including one slam-dancing punk rock night at the Space Place, which was the inspiration for this story.

David and the Happenings was a popular band from Carbondale, whose lead singer was the brother of James Chance.

I got to know many of the band members quite well over the years including Scott Morrow, who passed away a few years ago.

I dedicated this story to Scott.

Damaged Goods is now available through Lulu and Amazon.

Hmm…Where have I seen this helicopter before?

Cue the Johnny Mandel theme music/opening credits now…

The helicopter display in the back of the outdoor exhibition at the War Memorial Museum in Seoul might be the least visited of all the exhibits, but if you’re fascinated with helicopters like I am, you won’t be disappointed.

It’s amazing when you think about how this helicopter was used in the Korean War to bring the wounded from the front to MASH units.

Just think how many lives were saved.

Check out this cockpit. Talk about flying by the seat of your pants.

And now that I’ve gotten your attention, just wanted to remind you that all my books at Lulu, including my Korean War novel, War Remains are 20% off from now until May 16th. Just enter the code LUCKY when checking out.

“Lemongrass” — Damaged Goods

Sometimes inspiration (with a little help from your Muse) for a story might be something sensory, in this case the lemony-sour taste of lemongrass.

And a photograph.

One of my favorite Lao/Thai foods is grilled fish seasoned with lemongrass and salt.

I was looking at the photo above (that I took in Savannakhet) as well as the one below (that I took on my first trip to Laos in July 2007) when inspiration (with a little nudging from my Muse) hit me.

What’s “Lemongrass” about?

Study the photos, then read the story in Damaged Goods. Now available through Lulu as well as Amazon (Kindle)

“As long as I have my Cokes and Smokes” — Damaged Goods

“How did you come up with the idea for your story or novel?” is a question that I am often asked when folks want to know what inspired me.

For my first novel, War Remains, the answer is a long one, which involves talking about writing for the Korea Times back in 2000, interviewing veterans and then, talking about how I wanted to do something special for the 60th anniversary of the conflict.

On the other hand, inspiration can be a snippet of a conversation, like the one I had with a female expat on the Number 9 bus in Hamamatsu, Japan one cold, rainy November day in 1989.

This woman, who boarded the bus after I did, sat down across from me, and in the short time that it took for us to reach the downtown bus terminus in front of Hamamatsu Railroad Station, had told me her expat life story since arriving to teach English one month earlier.

It hadn’t been easy for her, but she was optimistic. “As long as I have my Cokes and Smokes” I’ll be okay.

What she said was profound enough to stay with me all these years until I sat down last year and wrote this story.

Sometimes that’s all it takes to write a story.

I like this story a lot. I hope you will, too.

Damaged Goods now available through Smashwords

Damaged Goods, a collection of 28 flash fiction stories is now available through Smashwords.

This collection features flash fiction from 50 words to 1,000 words. The stories range from a soldier coming home from World War II and an Air Force pilot ejecting from his F-4C over Vietnam to the night John Lennon died and slam dancing at the Space Place in Chicago.

I wrote all of these stories while I was writing my first novel War Remains and in many ways, honed my writing skills with them. All but three were published in online literary magazines, and one of them, “Scent of a Woman,” was nominated for a Micro Fiction Award.

damaged goods — now available at Lulu

My latest literary styling, damaged goods, is a collection of flash fiction which were published in online literary magazines the past year.

The 28 stories in this collection, which range from 50 words to 1,500 words, are snippets of life which might be yours or someone else’s. Long after you’ve turned the page, these stories stay with you. From Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War to slam dancing at the Space Place in Chicago, the stories in this collection are an examination of life, which is often bittersweet and revealing.

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