Necessary Background Info

When I was a teenager, I was close to my maternal grandfather, Milton M. Brown. I was fascinated by the time he spent as a "delegate" in Herbert Hoover's WWI Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB). He was one of only 185 American supervisors who ever worked for the CRB. After he died in 1979, I inherited all his diaries, correspondence and photographs from that period (1916-1917).

From 1986 through 1989, I worked full time researching the time period, WWI, the CRB, and numerous delegates. From those efforts, I wrote an 850-page historical novel, Honor Bound. I had a few nibbles -- agents and publishers who asked for the entire manuscript -- but no one offered a contract. In the late 1990s, I made a half-hearted attempt to rewrite the novel, but it didn't go far.

After my second book, Facing Your Fifties: Every Man's Reference to Mid-life Health came out in 2002 (and was included in Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2002), my agent looked at Honor Bound. He suggested the topic would do well -- and fit my writing strengths -- if it was a history book written in novel-like style.

At the end of 2012, as I turned 60 years old, I came to the conclusion that it was time to take up this incredible humanitarian story again and see if I could make it work.

After more than a year of researching and writing, and with the help of a talented book team, I published Behind the Lines: WWI's little-known story of German occupation, Belgian resistance, and the band of Yanks who helped save millions from starvation. 1914. It detailed the complex and chaotic beginnings of the CRB and CN during the critical first five months of the war (August to December, 1914). It was released in October 2014 in time for the 100-year anniversary of the start of WWI and the CRB.

Since then, I'm happy to report that Behind the Lines has garnered national recognitions and reviews that include a Kirkus Starred Review (only 750 out of 10,000 books annually reviewed by Kirkus are awarded a Starred Review) and inclusion in Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014. The last sentence of the review states: "An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians." You can read all the reviews at the book's website, which can be reached by clicking here.

Below are my blog posts about re-immersing myself in this important humanitarian topic. The posts start in Dec. 2012 and come up to the present. The posts are laid out with the most recent first. A "List of All My Posts" is on the bottom right of this page. I start each post with a quick snippet of history. I used to call this item "A Spot of History," but now it's titled "Don't-Forget-WWI Project."

My main forcus now is to finish researching and writing WWI Crusaders, which tells the riveting full story of the American CRB delegates from August, 1914 to April, 1917, when America entered the war and the CRB delegates had to leave Belgium and Northern France.

I hope you find something of interest within this blog. For more information about Behind the Lines and/or WWI Crusaders, please go to the books' website by clicking here.


Post #4. Building a Blog -- What a Pain!


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December 22, 2012

A Spot of History: English nurse, Edith Cavell, who is working in Belgium helping all soldiers, no matter what their nationality, is accused by the Germans of helping Allied soldiers escape to freedom. She’s tried and executed in 1915. In a time when women are put on pedestals and considered the weaker sex, the World is shocked and pissed off.

My Post: So, I took the plunge today and signed up with Google’s Blogger.com to build a blog site. Man, oh man, learning something new is such a pain in the ass! And it’s different from – and a lot less flexible – then Homestead.com where I’ve built my career website, www.jbmwriter.com.

As I mentioned in my first Post, “How This Blog Started,” I had an piphany regarding this project and how I might re-engage myself as quickly as possible with all the work I had done 25 years before. Three ways of getting back up to speed are:

1.      Take the nearly 1,000 handwritten 3x5 index cards I had made 25 years ago and retype them onto new cards. The retyping will reacquaint myself with all the subject matter, while the new, typed cards will be easier for me to use and read. Yeah, 3x5 cards are ancient tools, but they’re still really good ones for me.
2.      Type up all the seven legal pads of hand-written notes taken from reading all the primary source material back in the 1980s. Once again, the retyping will help remind me of all that I had done and all that I thought was critical when reading the original material. After doing this job, I’ll also have a better idea of what primary source materials do I need to read over immediately.
3.      Re-read the 850-page Honor Bound. Yes, it is fiction, but most of it is grounded in facts and reality.

First, though, I have to collect all the CRB boxes and material from the garage, under the stairs and in the basement closet and lay it out so I can get a sense of how big this project really is.

I’m made a deadline for myself that I have to have laid it all out by my birthday, Dec. 27. That job – done on time – will prove to me that I’m serious about getting this project moving again.

Susan says I need to chill and just take it slow, but I feel like I’ve been taking it slow ever since the cancer, three years ago. It’s time to kick my ass a bit and get myself back into gear.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff.... I'm excited for you and your new blog. I couldn't imagine you not being attached to a keyboard. It would be like... a knight without armour.... Shakespeare without a pen.... or Ben without Jerry. Best wishes.
    David D.
    PS. We've been wading for salmon like you to shed light upon the debauchery and decadence at the bottom of a Denver pond.

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