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 #25: The Cast of American Characters and How the Book is Doing

November 5, 2014

An Excerpt From Behind the Lines

Primary People in the Book


Oliver C. Carmichael—Twenty-three-year-old Rhodes scholar Carmichael was from Alabama and had scheduled a trip to Scotland during Oxford’s six-week Christmas break before he heard of Hoover’s need for neutral observers to go into German-occupied Belgium. If his account is correct, he and a fellow CRB delegate helped to smuggle from Belgium into Holland Cardinal Mercier’s famous pastoral letter, which inflamed world opinion against the Germans and inspired the Belgians to resist their occupiers.
Perrin C. Galpin—He was a second-year man at Oxford when Hoover contacted him directly to see if he could round up volunteers to become CRB delegates. Galpin organized meetings, corresponded with Hoover and his executive committee, and chose the first twenty-five men from Oxford who went into Belgium. He personally went into Belgium with the second wave of recruits.
Hugh Gibson—The secretary to the U.S. Legation in Belgium, Gibson was thirty-one and nearing the middle of his career as a diplomat when the war broke out. He earned admiration and respect for his hard work, dedication to helping the Belgians, and fearless traveling through the country as the war was still in its pre-trenches stage. He would be loved for his unfailing sense of humor and dry, sarcastic wit.
Herbert Clark Hoover—A highly successful forty-year-old U.S. mining engineer, Hoover was living in London before the war and searching for a way to get into public service or politics. When war erupted he jumped right in to organize assistance for stranded American tourists trying to get back home. When Belgian representatives from various cities and provinces came to England looking for a way to avert seemingly inevitable starvation within their country, he took over and started the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which became the largest food and relief drive the world had ever known.
Edward Eyre Hunt (E. E. Hunt)—A sensitive and artistic magazine journalist in America, Hunt became a war correspondent so he could see the war up close and personal. When he did get a clear vision of what was happening—especially in Belgium—he became an important chief delegate in Hoover’s CRB, helping to create and develop the processes of relief within the city and province of Antwerp, which encompassed 1 million people in 1914.
David T. Nelson—In late November 1914 Nelson was a first-year Rhodes scholar ready to embark on six weeks’ vacation from Oxford. When the twenty-three-year-old from North Dakota heard that Hoover was looking for volunteers to go into German-occupied Belgium as neutral observers to ensure the food would not be taken by the Germans, he signed up. Of all the CRB delegates, he was the only one who had to walk solo into Belgium with only the clothes on his back and what was in his pockets.
Brand Whitlock—When Whitlock was appointed minister of the U.S. Legation in Belgium in early 1914, he was looking forward to working on his novels at the traditionally noneventful post. He would be thoroughly tested by the war and the potential starvation of 9 million people in Belgium and northern France. In the end, he would become a figure who was both respected and ridiculed, beloved and belittled.

My Post: It has been a whirlwind since I last posted back in August. I still find it hard to believe that I wrote 140,650 words from January through June, then had a printed book in my hands by September 16, 2014.

That incredibly tight timetable is truly a testament not to me but to the great “Book Team” that made Behind the Lines much better than I could ever have done by myself. You can see the entire Book Team, and learn about their credentials by clicking here.

Before the book was actually printed (by the highly professional Four Colour Print group, represented by Michael Daniels), I had review copies made at the local Kinkos/Fedx store, where Torlon, Eric, Philip, and Aaron did an outstanding job. I sent these review copies to the top American reviewers, including members of the trade press( Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Book List, Library Journal), members of the consumer press (NY Times, NY Review of Books, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Denver Post, American History magazine) and radio/TV stations (NPR, Book TV, and Colorado Matters).

Most of these reviewers state that books should be sent 10 to 15 weeks before the book’s publication date so reviews – if they are done – will come out at the same time as the book.

It should also be noted that even though there are tens of thousands of book reviews that are published every year, they don’t even come close to the total amount of new books published every year in America. Figures that I’ve seen say that there are more than 300,000 new book titles a year—everything from cook books and novels to self-help and history books.

How do reviewers choose which books they are going to review? Well, one quick way to eliminate many of the more than 100 books that show up unsolicited on their desks EVERY DAY is to simply ignore (translation: throw out unopened) books that come from non-traditional book publishers (translation: self-published or “Indie” publishers).

While it’s true that there’s an incredible amount of shitty books that are self-published, it’s also true that there are some incredibly good self-published books. Finding the good indie books is just as hard as finding the good ones within the traditionally published world.

Taken all together, this means that “Indie” books are many times treated like second-class citizens by reviewers and traditional publishers.

Considering all that, I’m happy to report that my Indie book has done very well so far. Here are some highlights from the past month and a half:

1. Kirkus Star Review (only about 760 books out of 10,000 annually reviewed by Kirkus are awarded a Star Review). I was humbled by the last sentence of the review: “An excellent history that should catapult Miller to the top tier of popular historians.” The full review can be seen by clicking here. 

2. Kirkus has chosen Behind the Lines as the Indie Book of the Month for November. It will be featured along with four other books in the Nov. 15 print issue, an enewsletter and the website.

3. Foreword magazine has done a nice review entitled “The Indie We Love,” that ends with “Writers like Miller bring to life the people, the heroes we do not know, and this alone is reason enough to look forward to his next book.” It will be published Nov. 17. You can read the full review by clicking here.

4. The Oct. 22, Sunday Denver Post published a good article about myself and the book. You can read the article by clicking here.

5. Publishers Weekly (the bible of the book business), has announced that it will be reviewing the book—a big step for any Indie book. It will be a few weeks before the review comes out. I’m only hoping it’s half as good as the Kirkus Review was.

That’s not even half the exciting news, but I need to get to bed, so I’ll try to post again very soon and keep you up to date on what’s happening.

End of Post

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