I wrote my third novel between about 2007 and 2015. I can’t say it took a full eight years to write – I got stuck in the final third for a couple years – but it was an ambitious project. I’d gone from a third person novel to a first person novel, and now I was going back to third person again.

For Miles of Files, I wanted to paint with a broader palette than ever before, and I actually had a few things in mind. For one, I wanted to have tiers of characters like Charles Dickens did in Dombey and Son: primary, secondary, and tertiary. The tertiary characters are mainly commentators, who pass on information about primary and/or secondary characters. I wanted to make sure each character was unique and different enough from the others that the reader could easily identify them. So I went through the Myers-Briggs personality types and assigned them accordingly.

Miles started with the germ of an idea. Paul Panepinto works as a low-level employee in an insurance corporation. He finds out that his boss, the second-in-command, is stealing from the company retirement plan. Paul fears that he’ll lose his job if the owner doesn’t believe him, but he can’t just stick his head in the sand either. Talk about a highly uncomfortable dilemma.

Said boss, Graham Woodcock, is a Brit transplant who shows blatant contempt for Americans right from the first chapter. Now, I’ve been a diehard Anglophile for years, so you may wonder why I would create such a contemptible British character as Graham.

The roots of the Graham character probably go back to my twelve-year-old self discovering the magic of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Some of the ensemble – notably, Graham Chapman and John Cleese – had the pompous fool character down pat. The love-hate relationship between the U.S. and the U.K. came through for me even louder and clearer in another Cleese showcase, the 1980s film A Fish Called Wanda.

In that film, Cleese plays an amiable attorney (barrister, in British parlance) enamored with all things America…in particular, with Jamie Lee Curtis. I consider Kevin Kline, who plays Jamie’s fake brother, Otto, a kind of American prototype of Graham Woodcock (but not nearly as smart as Graham). Otto is especially contemptuous of Brits, whom he sees as pompous, condescending, etc.

Graham arrived fully formed, and I’ll be honest: I had a hard time letting him go. I actually had a hard time reining him in and keeping him from taking over the book! By turns ruthless, greedy, misogynistic, and pompous, I also think of Graham as reflective, a fan of classic American jazz, and very, very funny. I might have to make him the main character in another book somewhere down the line.

Cover Reveal: Rides From Strangers

Rides From Strangers is coming! Today’s post is a reminder about the upcoming publication of my new short story collection, which is indeed called Rides From Strangers, after the first story in the book. For those of you already on my email newsletter list, I will be...
LCCN

Do I Need A Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)?

This week I promised to write about one of the most often overlooked items in the publishing business - the Library of Congress Control Number, or LCCN. I'm going to write about it a bit today, but my thinking on the LCCN has changed to some degree over time.According...
fumes

Running On Fumes: Pandemic Fatigue

Let’s face: the past four years have been exhausting. But 2020 is a whole other level of exhausting. If you’re running on fumes right now—and I’ll be the first to admit that’s the case for me—who can blame you? Ordinarily, I have a schedule for these blog posts, and...
market

How Do You Sell A Book in the Digital Age? Market, Market, Market

"I need a steam shovel, mama, to keep away the dead / I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head." —Bob Dylan   Sometimes these days we all feel like the guy in today's photo, right? A head full of books—both paper and electronic—and a million tasks that need...
relax

Five Ways to Relax During Quarantine

​I thought a good blog post this week would be on how to unwind—not just during our current era of quarantine and “social distancing,” but on any day off. What my wife calls a holiday. That could be any time, right? I’ve been running so hard lately, I've barely had...
Whizzers

Book Promotion Sites: Which Are The Best, and Are They Worth It?

I'll be the first to admit that I'm no expert when it comes to book promotion sites. When I published my first three novels simultaneously on December 10th 2015—a day that will live infamy, and yes, I know now that it was a harebrained marketing scheme—I knew nothing...

Self-Care for Creatives

Today's post is not about coronavirus, because—let's face it—aren't we all sick of being bombarded with news and info about it all day, every day? The situation is getting worse, and will be for a while before it gets better. Duly noted. However, I do want to give...

Five Mistakes New Authors Make

Every author starts as a newbie, even if they held a job as a writer in some other capacity. The publishing business can be incredibly daunting for a newcomer: many authors work alone without much feedback, so their mistakes, while understandable, are also far too...
political

Navigating the Murky Waters of Political Correctness

“If you don't have a sense of humor, it just isn't funny.”  —Wavy Gravy   When it comes to political correctness, I’m not convinced we should go back to the “good old days.” I mean, do we really want to go back to calling someone born to an unwed mother a...

Rolling With The Changes

I’m back on the blog today after a two-week break, which hasn’t really been a break at all. At least, it hasn’t felt like one. But the topic of today’s post is change, and for good reason: I’m dealing with some major changes in my family, as my parents move past the...