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 contemptible of Britons, 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.

procrastination

New “Writer Problems” Series, Topic #2: Procrastination

Last week I started a new series here on the blog, “Writer Problems.” Naturally the idea is to offer solutions, but I’m always happy to get suggestions. Feel free to reply in the comments below. Whereas last week’s blog was a lengthy meditation on insomnia, today I...
music

“Music Hath Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast”

So wrote William Congreve in 1697, and it’s still true today. Of course, not everyone today understands that “hath” meant “has,” or that a “savage breast” was another way of saying “wild heart.” And these days, more music is made to stimulate than to calm.My own...
Whizzers

Authors’ Pandemic Sales and The Dubious Metric of “Necessities” Vs. “Luxuries”

​Considering everything going in the world, the past week was a pretty good one for me. Almost a year after its initial publication, my novel Whizzers—which had flatlined in the Kindle store—suddenly spiked to #179,500. When one of your babies jumps that much, it gets...
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Vote Like Your Life Depends On It—Then Let It Go

​In 1994, I wrote a novel called Brothers’ Hand, in which the titular character mentions that someday working class people might very well use billionaire “Duncan Scrump’s” name as a curse word one day. Of course, I never imagined such a person could become our...

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out. Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth...
black friday

From Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday: A Reflection

​Not so long ago, it was easy to think of the week of Thanksgiving as “Gratitude Week.” In fact, I actually did that: back in 2016, Facebook reminds me, I posted an entire week’s worth of “Things I’m Grateful For” to my timeline. It was fun, and certainly provided...
interregnum

What To Expect From An Interregnum

I had a very strange, little-used word pop into my head the other day: interregnum.  Cambridge English defines interregnum as "a period when a country or organization does not have a leader." That certainly seems to apply at this moment. Merriam-Webster's definition:...
identity

Who Are You? And What Do You Want?

Readers of this blog who are also movie buffs may be able to help me out today: tell me where I got that title about identity! I’m fairly certain there was an old movie or TV show where a character said, “Who are you? And what do you want?” But for the life of me, I...
department

Yes, I’m The Head of My Company’s Marketing Department

A few months ago, I wrote a post called What I’ve Learned In Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business. The idea was to provide six bullet points, one for each year I’ve run my publishing company. Ultimately, I realized that each of those six points could use some...

Vaccine Follies: How My Second Shot Got Delayed and Why I Freaked Out A Little

Most of my blog posts are related to books and marketing, as you probably know if you’re here. But periodically this blog serves the purpose of a journal, and I write about what’s on my mind—and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a lot. The virus, the...