Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Novels (page 1 of 9)

10,000 words

Just passed 10,000 words on my current WIP. The first 10,000 words are the always the hardest. I seem to be slowing down a little. Either that, I am taking more time (this is probably the real reason) for writing out particular scenes…and don’t forget I am still writing out the first draft by hand.

My goal is to finish this current novel by the end of this summer. Or as Slim Pickens playing Colonel Kong in Dr. Strangelove put it, “Now let’s get this thing on the hump — we got some flyin’ to do!”

Nuclear Blues

Martin 001Bradley Martin, the man who wrote the book on North Korea with his Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leaderwas in Seoul recently at What the Book? Bookstore talking about his new book, Nuclear Blues.

His new book is a thriller set in North Korea that has everything from evangelists running around, nuclear missiles, a blues musician, Heck Davis, investigating the death of his best friend, to a surprise appearance by Kim Jong-un. It’s a non-stop geopolitical thriller that’s a lot of fun to read. While I was reading it, I was thinking to myself, “you know, this could happen. It certainly is plausible.”

With North Korea and Kim Jong-un in the news so much these days, this is a timely novel from Martin. I doubt Kim Jong-un will have this book on his nightstand for some late night reading…but who knows?

Hot off the Presses!

Bureau 39 First BatchThe first batch of Bureau 39 arrived in Daejeon today, and in the immortal words of Ed Grimley (Martin Short) what a thrill it was to open the box to see all these copies, if I must say. This is one book that readers are going to love holding in their hands. As much as eBooks have given me the chance to read more books, there’s no better thrill a new book gives you when you hold it in your hands and begin to read it. And not just a new book.

I remember it was the summer of 1975 and I was hanging out with my friend David Walther. After he had broken both of his wrists, thanks to a movie I wanted to do (in the movie he had to jump from a train trestle–a story for another time) there wasn’t a lot we could do. Both of us expressed an interest in joining the Air Force after graduation from La-Salle-Peru Township High School the following year. One hot summer day, we walked to the Air Force Recruiting Station on Fourth Street in Peru, Illinois to get some information about the Air Force with David’s father who had served in the Air Force in the 1940s.

On the way back to David’s house, we walked down Fourth Street and stopped at a used book store in the old Turnhall Building. Although very hot, the inside was cool; the smell of all those old books was sweet and musky, like some exotic perfume. We all bought a couple books, and if my memory serves me correctly, I bought a collection of Rod Serling stories. But it was the first time I understood the thrill of holding a book in my hands and thinking not only about the people who might have read it before me, but the author’s life–the sweat and toil that went into its creation. It was that physical connection to other readers and the author which made me realize then, as it does now, the value of the written word and something that all of us writers strive for when we sit down and write.

I loved that feeling. I want to feel it more.

Book Trailer for Bureau 39

bureau39_ebook_front 2If you’re going to promote your book these days, you need to spend a lot of time on social media. Just posting a link to your book on Amazon or wherever else that it is available is just not going to work.

You need a video.

Specifically, you need a book trailer.

Of course, you still have to publish it somewhere and of course you still have to get people to watch it…who you hope will want to buy your book, but it’s just one of the things that indie authors have to do if they want to reach a wider market.

 

What do you think? Makes you want to go out and buy the book now, doesn’t it?

Bureau 39 — An Excerpt

bureau39_ebook_front 2WRAPPED IN LAYERS of threadbare rayon and vinylon, Kim Min-hee shivered on the shore of the frozen river and hoped she wouldn’t have to wait too long. After traveling for almost two days to get there, she had lain low for another day to watch for military patrols, and had been unable to light a fire for fear of being spotted. Hungry and cold, she spent the night huddled under an old blanket she had found tucked between rocks at the edge of the mighty Yalu.

She felt the small package under her clothes. Its weight and shape were both comforting and deadly. If things worked out, she would make contact with a Chinese buyer who would pay her well for the package. Bingdu—methamphetamine or crystal meth, was a valuable commodity, but if she was caught carrying the drugs, she would either be shot on the spot by one of the patrols, or worse, arrested and sent to one of the work camps where she would most assuredly die. The risk was extreme, but definitely worth it if Min-hee wanted to escape to the South.

Getting the drug was simple, since there was a man in her village who made it in his kitchen. He had once been a renowned chemist at a state-run laboratory, but when the country fell on hard times, he and other chemists who found themselves out of work turned to alternative means to support themselves. There were others who made the drug, but Min-hee’s villager was the most reliable. He had lost his wife the winter before, and no longer cared about life. The government threatened to crack down on the production and sale of bingdu, but the kitchen labs prospered, and the thriving black market along the border between North Korea and China was impossible to stop.

Min-hee had heard there was even a factory that was producing the drug on an industrial scale. Supposedly a Chinese businessman had built it and was manufacturing the drug using some of the same chemists who had been producing it in their homes. Min-hee feared it would only be a matter of time before chemists like the one in her village would be put out of work, or executed. The regime liked to keep the people scared, and mandatory attendance of public executions in the village square did that. Either way, if these rumors were true, she would have to come up with another way to fund her passage to the South.

Like many of the people in her village, Min-hee had sampled the drug she was carrying for the Chinese trader. Fellow villagers had told her how, in small quantities, bingdu suppressed the awful hunger they all felt. At first, she wanted nothing to do with it, but when she could no longer endure the gnawing emptiness in her stomach, she relented. The drug also had other supposed medicinal benefits. Some took it for headaches, to treat a common cold, or to seek relief from depression. She heard about soldiers who used it to stay alert when they were on duty or workers who took it to work longer hours in the country’s factories.

Everyone who tried it more than once found it extremely difficult to stop using.

Min-hee was not the only person in her village who sold the drug to Chinese traders. There were others who were willing to take risks, but not everyone was so lucky. There was one woman in her village whose son was arrested and thrown into jail for smuggling the drug into China. When the woman went to try to secure the release of her son, one of the guards told her that if she ever wanted to see her son alive, she had to bring him two grams of the drug. She did, and her son was freed. Another woman was caught and never heard from again.

It never crossed Min-hee’s mind that what she was doing was wrong. When she was younger, she had been mesmerized by her country’s charismatic leader. Once, while serving in the army, he visited her radar station on a mountain. She and the other women in her unit wept when he stopped to talk to them and pose for a photograph. It was one of the happiest days of her life. She believed in her country’s policy the Juche ideology or self-reliance. However, not everyone felt the same way. People grew tired of the food shortages and the empty slogans that told them to grow more mushrooms or annihilate the enemy to the last man. These slogans did not improve their lifestyle or put more food on the table. Soon, she dreamed of a better life.

On the horizon…

523ffb134784123e50fd543a9bc760fcNot one, but three new books coming down the pike.

The first one is a collection of short stories, The Roads We Must Travel, which is being published by the Big Table Publishing Company. I’m really excited to have this collection published by an indie press, especially this one which has published some very good titles the past few years. Two of Big Table’s highly acclaimed titles, Finding the Wow and Fat Girl, Skinny (which has been nominated for a Pulitzer) are at the top of their respective charts.

I’ve also completed my sixth novel, a thriller set in South Korea. I’m keeping this one under wraps until I find some beta readers and it’s been edited, but I can tell you this, it’s about a plot to smuggle 1000 kilos of methamphetamine from North Korea to the United States.

I had toyed around with the idea of publishing it through Inkshares which is this publishing platform combining the best of social networking with publishing to help authors from writing to publishing. One of my former colleagues, Peter Ryan is publishing two books with the company. Check out his first one, Sync City, which is in production now.

I’m not sure if my novel would be a perfect fit for Inkshares because from what I have seen, most of the books that do well are either science fiction or fantasy.

And finally, I’m just about finished with a novella set in the Midwest which is about fracking.

Lots to look forward to in the next coming months.

Word Count

FullSizeRenderHow many words do you write every day?

Some of my author friends are quite prolific when it comes to the number of words they write each day. Some stick to a daily quota and meet that quota no matter what. Others choose a more manageable and polished quota.

I’m quite happy if I can write 300-500 polished words a day. That might not seem very much, but it’s definitely been more manageable for me. Anyone with little kids running around the house knows exactly what I mean.

Reviews Do Matter

 I am adetail of a statue at the Korean War Veteran's Memorial in Washington, D.C.lways grateful when someone takes out the time to leave a review for one of my books at Amazon or Goodreads. When you’re an indie writer you need all the help you can get promoting your book and there’s no better way than by word-of-mouth when someone writes an honest review.

Recently, this is what one reader had to say about my novel War Remains:

“This is a story told through letters found 50 years later about the Korean War. So well written you are taken along with those in war and become scared, yet know it was much worse than you could imagine. Ronnie and his son Michael found long forgotten artifacts in a footlocker belonging to Ronnie’s father who went to Korea and fought for South Korea’s freedom. A police state action, not labeled a war, but Bobby never came home and was listed as MIA. This is a story about the journey to learn about Bobby and those who served with him. Makes you grasp for an emotion you may not realize you have inside. I can’t read this without crying and praying for all servicemen and their families.”

Although I don’t have any clear or hard evidence how a book review will drive sales or help me reach a wider market, I am just grateful that my book resonated with a reader and touched them.

The Panama Affair — The Soundtrack

TPA_ebook April

It’s true that when I write, I often see a movie in a mind. And if I am seeing a movie in my mind, I need some music. At the same time, music from a particular period, such as the late 60s for Ice Cream Headache, also inspires me when I write.

For The Panama Affair, which begins in 1976 and ends in 1989, I had a lot of music to choose from which also was part of my musical growth, from classic 70s rock to Punk and New Wave.

The Panama Affair Playlist

1.       Welcome to the Jungle – Guns ‘N Roses

2.       Bad Company – Bad Company

3.       Sonic Reducer– Dead Boys

4.       Psycho Killer– Talking Heads

5.       Desperado –Alice Cooper

6.       Fortunate Son– Credence Clearwater Revival

7.       I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – Devo

8.       We’re Not Going to Take it – Twisted Sister

9.       Life During Wartime – Talking Heads

10.    Hotel California – Eagles

11.    Love Hurts –Nazareth

12.    Happy Hunting Ground – Sparks

13.    Jet Airliner –Steve Miller Band

14.    Roland theHeadless Thompson Gunner – Warren Zevon

15.    Storm the Embassy– Stray Cats

16.    Refugee – TomPetty

17.    Lawyers, Guns,and Money – Warren Zevon

18.    Ballroom Blitz– Sweet

19.    Highway toHell – AC/DC

20.    Search and Destroy – The Stooges

21.    Slow Motion –Ultravox

22.    Bad Reputation- Joan Jett

23.    Mad World –Tears for Fears

24.    Let’s Have a War – Fear

25.    Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black) – Neil Young

26.    Free Bird –Lynyrd Skynryd

27.    Wait for the Blackout – The Damned

28.    Born to Lose– Heartbreakers

29.    Highway Star –Deep Purple

30.    Paranoid –Black Sabbath

31.    Hotter thanHell – Kiss

32.    Wasted Days and Wasted Nights – Freddy Fender

33.    Dangerous Type– The Cars

34.    Come Back Jonee– Devo

35.    Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

36.    Commando –Ramones

37.    Boys of Summer– Don Henley

38.    Livin’ Thing –ELO

39.    Blinded by theLight – Manfred Mann

40.    Fernando –ABBA

41.    Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult

42.    Ghost Riders in the Sky – The Outlaws

43.    I Wanna Be Sedated – Ramones

44.    White Lines –Grandmaster Flash

45.    Surrender –Cheap Trick

46.    Bad to the Bone – George Thorogood

47.    Poor Boy (TheGreenwood) – ELO

48.    GoingUnderground – The Jam

49.    Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die – Jethro Tull

50.    I Fought the Law – The Clash

51.    Heartbreaker –Pat Benatar

52.    Show Me the Way – Peter Frampton

53.    Dream Weaver –Gary Wright

54.    Rock and Roll– Led Zeppelin

55.    We Didn’t Start the Fire – Billy Joel

56.    Run Like Hell– Pink Floyd

57.    Running with the Devil – Van Halen

58.    Homicide – 999

59.    Gut Feeling/SlapYour Mammy – Devo

60.    Havana Affair– Ramones

61.    Cum on Feel the Noise – Slade

62.    Waterloo –ABBA

63.    Rumble in Brighton – Stray Cats

64.    They Don’t Want Me – Wall of Voodoo

65.    Let’s Lynch the Landlord – Dead Kennedys

66.    Living Next Door to Alice – Smokie

67.    La Grange – ZZTop

68.    Black Betty –Ram Jam

69.    Prisoners of Rock and Roll – Neil Young

70.    You’ve Got Another Thing Coming – Judas Priest

71.    One –Metallica

72.    Eye of Fatima –Camper Van Beethoven

73.    Shanghai’d in Shanghai – Nazareth

74.    Orange Crush– REM

75.    Beef Boloney –Fear

76.    It Takes A Worried Man – Devo

77.    The Heat is On– Glenn Frey

78.    You Got Lucky– Tom Petty

79.    Beds are Burning – Midnight Oil

80.    Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds

81.    Hang em High –Van Halen

82.    Flirtin’ With Disaster – Molly Hatchet

83.    Pretty Vacant– Sex Pistols

84.    Back in Black– AC/DC

85.    Cretin Hop –Ramones

86.    Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

87.    No Thugs inOur House – XTC

88.    For Whom the Bell Tolls – Metallica

89.    Big Shot –Billy Joel

90.    Immigrant Song– Led Zeppelin

91.    Burning Down the House – Talking Heads

92.    Running on Empty – Jackson Browne

93.    Games Without Frontiers – Peter Gabriel

94.    Hair of the Dog – Nazareth

95.    The Lunatics Have Taken Over the Asylum – Fun Boy Three

96.    Breaking the Law – Judas Priest

97.    I Remember Death in the Afternoon – Ultravox

98.    Generals and Majors – XTC

99.    Because the Night – Patti Smith

100.Who Are You –The Who

 

 

And so it begins

TPA_ebook AprilOn June 9, 1976, I started Air Force basic training.

On June 9, 1980, I started classes at Southern Illinois University.

On June 9, 1989, I arrived in Japan to teach English.

Today I published The Panama Affair.

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

After almost two years of writing and revising and then writing and revising more and more, my novel about Panama finally entered the world today. It was a long journey that actually began in 1980 when I first sat down and penned a screenplay about Panama (which has long since disappeared). Of all my novels, this one was the most challenging because of the twists and turns in the story but it was also my most rewarding effort (right up there with Ice Cream Headache) because of the memories I drew upon to bring this story to light.

A lot of memories in this one.

Like all my other books, I hope this one will be successful. There’s always this feeling of apprehension when you come out with a new book. After all those months of writing the story and getting yourself out of all the corners you wrote yourself in, you hope that people will be interested in what you have created. You’ve done all you could do to promote it and hope all those friends who “liked” your status on Facebook or other social networking sites when you uploaded the photo of the cover or shared a blurb with them will be interested in reading the finished product.

Hope. That’s a big word when it comes to self-publishing. It’s not easy these days when you find yourself competing with thousands of other authors who also hope their writing endeavors will also pay off. The market has become a lot more saturated than it was when I published War Remains in 2010.

Without question, it’s a nerve-wracking experience to self-publish. First, you hope that you’ve done all you could have done to tell a good story; then, you have to start marketing and promoting your book. I am at a bit of a disadvantage living in South Korea. It’s not like I can contact a local bookstore and do a signing. Sadly, and sometimes tragically, I have to rely solely on Facebook to let the world know of my literary accomplishment. I’m not alone, though. Indie authors rely on reviews and word of mouth testimonials to help promote and market your book. Those reviews and testimonials will ultimately determine if your book is successful or not.

 And so it begins again. I’ve written and published another book. It’s a good story. There will be many who will like it; others will probably say it was an okay story. Some readers will write reviews; others won’t. After eight books, I know what to expect and what not to expect, but I never give up hope, yes, there’s that word again, that this book will be the one.

In the meantime, I am working on my next book because that’s what writers do.

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