Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Waking up in the Land of the Morning Calm (page 1 of 5)

Worst Photoshop Photo Ever

Worst Photoshop

South Korean President Park Geun-hye (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama at a White House meeting on May 7. (Yonhap)


If there was a contest for the worst photoshopped photo, the Yonhap News Agency in South Korea would would hands down with this photo. The person President Park is really shaking hands with is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Why couldn’t they just have used both photos?

Upcoming Book Events: 10 Magazine Book Club


On Sunday, April 28th, I will be the special guest author at 10 Magazine’s monthly book club meeting. I’ve been looking forward to this event for some time and the chance to talk about my books, especially War Remains and Ice Cream Headache. Kudos to Barry Welsh, the organizer of this event, who personally invited me to participate in this event.

I am following in the steps of greatness, a who’s who of Korean Arts, History, and Literature including, Michael Breen, Daniel Tudor, Charles Montgomery, Andrew Salmon, and Robert Neff. I invite you to check out what they have written and done.

A Little Rebellion Now and Then is a Good Thing

iceCreamHeadache Smash 5Even when it comes to self-publishing.

There’s a really good article on the Huffington Post which you can read here. Essentially it’s about the self-publishing industry and the stigma attached to those of us who have self-published and are trying to get the word out about our books.

I’ve heard it all. When I told some of my friends and colleagues that I was going to self-publish my first novel, War Remains, their first reaction was that the only people who would buy it would be my family and friends. One former colleague, a writer himself, said that no one will ever take me seriously as a writer. That was three years ago and as far as I know, he still hasn’t written the book he said he was going to write. I’ve written five in that time.

And yes, some bookstores will show you the door if you walk in with a load of your books and ask to have them sold or even set up a book signing. However, thanks to Ingram and word-of-mouth, a bookstore would be crazy not to carry a book that people want to buy. (Something I need to work on for my books. I have had a number of people who have asked me if Ice Cream Headache is available at a bookstore in Seoul.)

Self-publishing is easy. It’s having to deal with promoting your book and having people talk about it what takes the most time and work. However, in order to help chip away at that stigma, you need a little help along the way. I know that with each sale of one of my books that stigma is slowly being removed. Just this past weekend, War Remains was up to Number #8 on Amazon’s Kindle list. It might have only been for a few hours, but you know that has to count for something. That’s why I work so hard to trying to promote and market my books. A sale here and a sale there and people start to take notice.

And if it’s a good book and the author tells a good story it doesn’t make any difference if it was self-published or not. That’s the bottom line.

Ice Cream Headache: My Journey Back to 1968

icecreamCover2I’m a student and a teacher of history and when it comes to writing both become quite evident in what I write.

My first novel, War Remains, A Korean War Novel took me back to the opening months of the Korean War, the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, Kunu-ri, and the battle at Hoengseong. My interest in the Korean War was in part due to my coverage of Korean War commemorative events in Korea between 2000-2003 for the Korea Times, which also included meeting many veterans.

Although Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm is about my twenty-plus years living and working in Korea, the book is also a personal history of Korea and the changes which have occurred on the peninsula since I came to Korea in 1990. Besides the essays and articles about the Korean War, there is a special section about Panmunjom, including the article I wrote in 2001 about the 25th anniversary of the Panmunjom Ax Murder Incident.

There’s also a lot of history evident in Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst. Though most of the essays are about growing up in Oglesby, Illinois, a town of 4,200 back in the 1960s and 1970s, there are a number of historical references, including, but not limited to, the Vietnam War, the Apollo space program, and 1960s television. Many of the essays in this collection started out as blog posts which I later revised and expanded. I tell people that if you like Bill Bryson or Dave Barry, you’ll like this collection.

And that brings me to Ice Cream Headache when I travel back in time again, this time back to 1968. I’ve always been fascinated with this year. A lot has to do with my own sort of prepubescent coming of age when I first really became aware of the world around me. Although Johnny Fitzpatrick is the only one directly affected by the historical backdrop, everyone has their own stake in the historical backdrop of the novella.

In many ways the history that ended up in Ice Cream Headache is also me waxing nostalgic about the Illinois Valley. (For those of you not familiar with the Illinois Valley, it is a geographical area approximately 90 miles southwest of Chicago with three main towns located along the Illinois River: LaSalle, Peru, and Oglesby; to the east there’s Utica and Ottawa and to the west Spring Valley.) It’s been over six years since I last was home; the history I remember and write about is also my way of maintaining an umbilical cord to “home.”

Reading Ice Cream Headache, Invaders from Mars and Other Tales of Youthful Angst, and War Remains, is reading me: who I am and where I’ve come from.

Come along for the ride.

Korea: Up Close and Personal — A Review of Korea: The Impossible Country

Korea The Impossible CountryWhen I came to Korea in 1990 to live and work, my knowledge of Korea was what I was able to glean from a South Korean Fodor’s travel guide, travel information from the Korea National Tourism Agency, a couple badly photocopied pages of firsthand experiences by English teachers at the language school I would be teaching at in southern Seoul, and a feature story in a 1979 issue of National Geographic magazine.

Nowadays, finding out information about what life is like in Korea is easy thanks to all the websites and blogs devoted to Korea and the trove of books which have been published about Korea in the past 20 years (including one from this reviewer: Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm). There is no dearth of information about Korea and it seems with every new book or blog about Korea another “expert” chimes in.

Well, another expert, Daniel Tudor, has chimed in with Korea: The Impossible Country and this is one expert who knows his stuff about Korea. Indeed, this old Korean hat found a trove of fresh insights about Korea as well as some succinct explanations of Korean customs and traditions and one of the best explanations that I’ve ever come across of that ever so explanation-evasive Korean “cultural code”, han.

It’s all here. Anything and everything you’ve heard or wondered about Korea is explored here, up close and personal. He examines everything from Shamanism and Confucianism to the rise of democracy in Korea and nationalism. With journalistic flair and the desire for getting at the truth, whether to satisfy his own curiosity or not, Tudor unravels all that is mysterious, intriguing, and sometimes frustrating about Korea to get at the very heart of what makes Korea, Korea.

Although this is not an academic study, (those looking for a more of an academic study about Korea might want to choose Don Oberdorfer’s, The Two Koreas or Bruce Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun) there is much to be learned and digested here. And even if you have already lived and worked in Korea for any length of time, Tudor offers fresh insights into contemporary Korean society whether he’s talking about Korea’s drinking culture or the role of women (though he might need to update his book soon with the election of Park Guen-hye).

Though a bit heavy on the historical, cultural, anthropological, psychological attributes of Korean society and things Korean for short term visitors to Korea, it should be standard issue for anyone who is going to be here for the long term. Tudor excels with his ability to describe the Korean-ness of Korea. Additionally, it should be required reading for anyone doing business in Korea: from students and military personnel to business persons and diplomats.

Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm (ebook)

Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm (paperback)

Upcoming Book Events for Ice Cream Headache

icecreamCover2Although an actual date has not been decided, in April or May, I will be one of the guest authors talking about Ice Cream Headache or Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm at the 10 Magazine Book Club in Seoul. This book club meeting has already featured or will feature such authors as Michael Breen, Daniel Tudor, and Andrew Salmon. That’s some great company to join.

I will also be featured on Arirang radio sometime soon talking about War Remains.

On February 19, Ice Cream Headache will be the featured blog post on Authors Promoting Authors.

I am reading Daniel Tudor’s book, Korea: The Impossible Country right now and I am loving it. His book should be standard issue for anyone who’s going to be in Korea for any length of time. I know I am learning some new things here as well as finally having someone explain han and jeong in accessible terms.

I would love to have the chance to talk about Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm and share my insights on what it’s been like for me all these years living and working in Korea. Unlike most expats who have written books about their experiences in Korea, I was fortunate that I was a writer for the Korea Times at the time and witness to a lot of history going down here. When Tudor talks about Chun Do-hwan or Roh Tae-woo, how many expats can say that they lived next door to ex-presidents of Korea?

Winter in Daejeon

Uam 2013 003Winter is my favorite time of the year in Korea; especially when it snows. Having lived in Korea since 1990, I have seen my share of snow in Seoul, Daejeon, and my first winter wonderland at Mt. Sorak in 1991.

December was the snowiest month I have experienced in Daejeon as well as Korea all those years.

Uam 2013 004On New Year’s Day, another couple of inches was dumped on Daejeon and with the temperature not too cold, I trudged through the snow over to Uam Historical Park (a little over a mile from where I live) to take some winter photos.

I’m glad I did.

Uam 2013 012

Read about my first winter in Korea, snow, and other things in Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm.

Steady as she goes

The Lespo Standard.

Your all-weather bicycle.

And why do we say, “steady as she goes?” Why not, “steady as it goes?”

Either way, this gentleman was not about to be dissuaded by snow and ice. Look closely, you’ll also see his cane and an industrial-strength chain to make sure no one steals his Lespo.

Deep-Freeze Daejeon

It’s been wicked cold in Daejeon for the past three days; the coldest December that I can remember in a long time. Most of the streets in my neighborhood are still sheets of corrugated ice and snow. There won’t be any city department crews sprinkling salt on these streets.

Some folks have taken to spreading crushed yontan (charcoal briquettes used for heating and cooking) on the streets for traction. Last night, I saw a guy using a blow torch to melt the ice on one patch of ice on a side street near my apartment so he could move his car.

This deep freeze is supposed to last until the middle of next week.

It’s a good time to curl up with a good book.

How about Ice Cream Headache?

Or, Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm?

The loneliness of a winter day

A photograph is worth a thousand words.

And then some.

For as long as I have lived in Korea, now starting my 23rd year, I have never seen this much snow in early December. And I’m lovin’ every minute of it!

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