The 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.
Of all my short fiction, one of my stories that is near and dear to me is “Mojave Green” which I originally wrote in 1988 for my MA Thesis at Western Illinois University. The story, which takes place in the small town of Adelanto, California outside of George AFB, is about an airman who finds out a troubling secret about his wife and the visit of his wife’s ex who liked to hunt for Mojave Green rattlesnakes.
I cut my teeth as a writer with the story and it will be featured in a collection of short fiction I hope to publish this year. I learned a lot about the craft of writing with this story and the importance of the rewrite.
Mitch moved past me, kicking up some sand as he moved toward his truck. From the back, he pulled out a cooler. “Didn’t want Betsy to know I had this. She used to get really bent out of shape with my drinking. I don’t think I could have gone another minute without a cold one. Beer?”
“Listen, Mitch, if it’s about—”
“You know why I’m here.” He pulled out a dripping bottle of Budweiser, opened it on the lip of the truck’s rust-flecked bumper and hoisted it to his lips. Beer streamed out the corner of his mouth that he wiped away with the back of his hand. “It’s a hot one today. I don’t know how you two can still live in this place. I figured you for base housing, being an E-5 and all. Betsy probably told you that I was redlined for promotion a couple of times because of my drinking. No promotion. No base housing. That sucked.”
Oh, yeah the photo. That’s the barracks I lived when I was stationed at George from 1978-1980.
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
On 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.
After almost two years of writing, revising, editing, and doing it all over again, my latest novel, The Panama Affair will soon see the light of day.
It’s been quite the journey. In fact, this novel originally started out as a screenplay in the spring of 1980, just a few months before I got out of the United States Air Force on May 9th. Although that screenplay was lost, I recreated some scenes from it for the novel. Additionally, there were two short stories, “Love Song from the Zone” (which was part of my MA thesis) and “Pictures for Lily” which also served as an inspiration.
I had planned to publish this novel in November, but due to circumstances beyond my control, it had to be delayed. It was to be a blessing in disguise. The delay was the best thing that could have happened to the story because in that time I rewrote some major scenes and added other ones which strengthened the story. The manuscript I have now is ten times better than the one I thought was ready to publish seven months. Stephen King is right. The best thing a writer can do when they finish a novel is put it away for a couple of months. You’d be surprised how it reads, and perhaps doesn’t read, after you have put it away for a while.
And once again, my designer, Anna Takahashi, has come through in a very BIG way with her cover design. This by far is her most impressive cover design.
I can’t wait to share this book with the world. It’s been a labor of love and I have laid to rest some ghosts from my past while resurrecting others.
It’s such a thrill to say those two words, coming soon, when I am ready to publish another novel.
I am very excited about my latest, The Panama Affair. Of all my books, this one was by far the hardest to write. A lot had to do with all the twists and turns in the plot as well as trying to find the right angle to tell a story about Panama, the Canal Zone, and Howard Air Force Base.
This novel dates back to the spring of 1980 when I wrote a screenplay about Panama when I was stationed at George AFB. Although that script has long since vanished, there are still some elements from that script in my novel.
I’m really happy the way this novel turned out–nothing like I imagined when I first started writing it over a year ago.
The manuscript is still being edited and the cover design still needs to be finished. This is a rough draft of what the final design will look like.
The genesis of this book dates back to 1980 when I was still in the Air Force stationed at George AFB outside of Victorville, California. I wrote a screenplay about the time I was stationed at Howard AFB. Although I lost that screenplay there was one scene which I recreated for The Panama Affair.
Today I reached another milestone: 60,000 words completed for the Panama novel. Realistically speaking, this novel will most likely end up being around 65,000-70,000 words depending on the final chapters.
This photograph was taken right around the same time I was stationed at Howard Air Force Base. On the left is the hangar that I worked of from 1977 to 1978 when I worked in the Repair Cycle Support Unit. That was a pretty awesome job: I went around Howard as well as Albrook picking up items which could be repaired at stateside depots. After I processed them, I had to take them to Packing and Crating for shipment back to the States or pick up repaired items on base and return them to supply.
In the background in the center is the base gym and beyond it, the parade field. My barracks was located on the right next to the first three-story building which was where one of the chow halls was located.
I’m going to have to get around to writing a book about the time I spent at Howard Air Force Base and Panama. I have a few essays here, “Crossing the Isthmus of Panama with Howard and Other Stories” but I haven’t been able to take these stories to the next level. I haven’t been able to tie these stories together; I haven’t come up with some interesting story.
The two years I spent there, from September 1976 to September 1978 were two of the most important years of my life. I had some good times when I was there and met some very wonderful people.
There’s a story somewhere in those two years, just waiting for me to tell.
“Bobby Washkowiak battles his way through the bitter first winter of the Korean War, longing for home. Fifty years later, his son and grandson come across the wartime letters from the father and grandfather they never knew and learn what happen to him on one of the battlefields of that “forgotten war.” In this emotional tour de force, Jeffrey Miller vividly recreates the horrors of combat and the yearning for closure experienced by millions of soldiers and their families.” - Michael Breen, author of Kim Jong-Il: North Korea's Dear Leader and The Koreans: Who They Are, What They Want, Where their Future Lies.