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 #11. Psychics, Deadlines and America's Place in the World

January 31, 2013 

A Spot of History: Before WWI began, a lot of Americans praised Germany as a nation filled with highly organized, detailed, hard-working people. They thought the Prussian mindset and perspective were to be held in high esteem and copied wherever possible.

Author Owen Wister
One such fan was famous author Owen Wister, best known for his cowboy classic, The Virginian (published in 1902). In May and June 1914 (a couple of months before war began), he traveled through Germany and his high regard was only reconfirmed, especially when contrasted with America:

"Look where you might, beauty was in some form to be seen, given its chance by the intelligence of man -- not defaced, but made the most of; and, whether in towns or in the country, a harmonious spectacle was the rule.

"I thought of our landscape, littered with rubbish and careless fences and stumps of trees, hideous with glaring advertisements; of the rusty junk lying about our farms and towns and wayside stations; and of the disfigured Palisades along the Hudson River.

"America was ugly and shabby -- made so by Americans; Germany was swept and garnished -- made so by Germans."


Depiction of Prussian Militarism indoctrinating the young.
But all that changed when Germany invaded Belgium and France and war began in August 1914. In a nonfiction book, The Pentecost of Calamity, published in 1915, Wister carefully and methodically laid out the case for why he had changed his mind and now felt the Germans were  morally bankrupt. He realized that even though America's democracy was shabby on the outside, it was morally rock solid on the inside; something Wister could not find in Germany's Prussian militarism. (Cartoon from website: http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image.cfm?image_id=1687)

As for those who, in 1915, felt America should not get involved in the European conflict, Wister had some fine, uplifting words that still ring true today:

"To speak of the Old World and the New World is to speak in a dead language. The world is one. All humanity is in the same boat. The passengers multiply, but the boat remains the same size. And people who rock the boat must be stopped by force. America can no more separate itself from the destiny of Europe than it can escape the natural laws of the universe."

My post: Speaking of the universe, I went to a psychic the other day as a birthday present from my friend, Lisa. I was initially leery when I saw the psychic, Audra Garcia. She's a young woman probably in her mid to late 20s and I immediately thought, what could she know about things.

Well, she nailed me right from the beginning. She did a psychic reading only from knowing my first name and then at the end of the hour she pulled three Tarot cards to confirm what she had been saying. The cards, in order of appearance were "Perfect Timing" "Patience" and "Love" -- all of which fit beautifully into what she had said.
Basically, this book project is exactly what I should be doing, and that when I have some bumps along the way I need to have more patience and keep reminding myself that this project is what I need and want to do right now. GREAT stuff! I highly recommend her. (Click here for her website.)

All of which leads up to what I really want to report: I finished another critical deadline! In my Deadline Box on the right side of this blog page I had posted that by the end of January I needed to have typed up all the legal pads of handwritten notes I had taken 25 years ago.

Well, my fingers are worn down to their second knuckles, but I finished last night the 261 pages of legal pad notes.

Once again, I'm blown away by all the hard work that this young man, 25 years ago, did on this project. And, of course, I'm so grateful "he" did all the work -- so that I can coast into reacquainting myself  with the research.

Now, though, comes the hard work. That will include jobs such as:

1. Re-reading some of the primary source materials. While my 25-year-old notes are good, they still can't take the place of actually reading the original material from nearly 100 years ago. So, I'm strategically choosing a few critical books, documents, journals and letters and re-reading them completely to recapture their essence.   

2. Doing new research. In many cases my old notes are showing me where I can benefit from doing new research -- either on topics I had already researched, or on completely new topics.

3. Taking new notes & making new index cards. As I read the new research material (books, letters, journals, articles, etc.), I need to take notes and make up index cards that will be integrated into my previous notes and cards.

Throughout this work, I have to keep an eye out for my concept. As I've mentioned before, I do NOT yet have a strong idea of what exactly my book will cover. I have ideas, but nothing solid or absolute yet.

As I writer, I have to have faith that the concept will reveal itself to me as I get deeper into the material. It's kind of like the story of a sculptor of stone who says she stares at the uncarved block of stone until she "sees" the image within, then simply starts cutting away the stone to reveal the statue trapped inside.

I know that deep within all my material is this GREAT book. I just have to "see" what it is among all the material. Once I have that vision, then the actual writing will just fly by because the hardest part will be done.

So, on to my next deadline!

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