Friday, August 12, 2022

Sadly Neglected Forever

Between 2009 and 2018, I was on a mad tear, writing books and short stories like a man with nothing better to do. I churned out a whole bunch of novels, some of which were published by indie publishers and others self-published. I put out seventeen novels in total, but only a few of them received any real marketing or attention.

How many copies of my books did people ultimately acquire? When factoring in Amazon and other online booksellers, indie bookstores, school libraries, personal sales, and social media giveaways, ultimately slightly less than 10,000 copies. However, most of those were from just a handful of my books, namely: Mary of the Aether, Children of the Mechanism, Shadows of Tockland, The Vale of Ghostsand Garden of Dust and Thorns

In retrospect, I wrote too many books. I should have written fewer books and put more of my effort toward marketing them. 

Anyway, in 2017, I began a ghostwriting career, which has proved lucrative and took all of my focus off my own novels. Over the last few years, I've done a lot of writing for other people, including some pseudonymous fiction writing for a UK publisher. Ironically, some of the novels I've written under a pen name have sold very well, much better than my own books.

In recent months, I've begun digging up my own novels, when I can find the time, and trying to reread them with an eye toward making something meaningful out of them. Most of them are just sitting in various online stores, making very sporadic sales. I don't know if there's anything I can do with them at this point, really, and I certainly don't need the sales. Ghostwriting pays the bills.

If I had to pick just a few to focus renewed energy on, I think I would go with the following:

And if I had a lot of free time, I might give some time, consideration, additional editing, and attention to:

So, what do you think, Dear Reader? Have you read any of these novels, and are there any that I should stop sadly neglecting forever? 

Monday, December 10, 2018

There's a Lot More Creepiness Below

Have you read Children of the Mechanism? It seems to be one of my more consistently read and appreciated novels. When I created the weird, dark factory world of the novel, there was a lot I thought about but didn't have a reason to delve into during the story. There's some very strange stuff going on throughout that mysterious factory.

Well, I'm slowly working my way through the sequel. It doesn't even have a title yet. It's just called Children of the Mechanism 2, and I'm going rather slow because I have another full-time job that gets in the way. However, I've churned out five solid chapters. Maybe you'd like to read the rough opening paragraphs? Okay, why not? Here you go:

Children of the Mechanism 2
Chapter One: The Bones Under the Bed

“Never open that door,” the old father said, tipped to one side on his chair, the loose skin of his jowls quivering as he struggled to sit up. “Never open that door, Gis, not for any reason, not for anything in the world.”

The incessant, rhythmic tapping from the end of the hall continued unabated, every metallic clank climbing Gis’s spine and settling at the base of his skull until he could scarcely stand it. The sound had begun in the middle of lunch and continued now long after he’d tossed the residue of the old father’s food into the Refuse Hole. Would it never end?

“But, Father, who is doing this?” Gis asked. “Who is making the terrible sound?”

The old father finally managed to sit up, flopping back against the high headrest of the chair. With a shaky hand, he pushed his wispy white hair back against his skull. His robe hung loosely these days, like a big blanket draped over his shoulders. Gis was tempted to believe the old father changed clothes at night while the children slept, gradually putting on bigger and bigger robes, but he knew this wasn’t the case. The ancient food stains on the front of the robe were the same as ever, years of dribbled meat juice soaking into the gray fabric.

“Listen to me carefully, Gis,” the old father said, dragging his bent fingers through the wild spray of his white beard. “There is something very dangerous on the other side of that door. That’s why we never open it. That’s why we never even touch it.”

“But, Father, you told me the door can’t open,” Gis said, lingering in the entryway of the old father’s bedroom, idly dragging his heel against the smooth carpet. “You said it’s not a real door. You said it many times.”

“I’m just trying to keep you away from it, Gis. I will say whatever I must say to keep you away from it.”

The tapping stopped for a moment, and Gis breathed a sigh of relief. It was like the sudden end of a long nightmare. But then it started up a moment later, and all of his nerves were immediately on edge. He wanted to claw at something, to dig into his own skin, to bite the carpet, or break one of the old father’s dainties on the shelves. 

Tap-tap-tap, like metal against metal. Gis couldn’t stand it. He hated it more than he’d hated anything since the Many Deaths.

“But what if this sound never stops?” he said. “How will we…?” How will I not go crazy? How will I not pull the rest of my teeth out and throw myself into the Refuse Hole?

+ + +

There you go. One of these days, the sequel will be ready. In the meantime, if you haven't read the original, check it out by clicking the image: 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Before Mary Was Novelized

Before I wrote my first novel Mary of the Aether, I wrote a short story version of it. That short story was purchased for a Young Adult anthology, but the anthology never made it to print. I'm not sure what went wrong, but the short story just languished in limbo, and eventually, the idea evolved and became my first novel.

You can read that original short story on Futurism. If you've read the novel, you'll notice some distinct differences. 

There is one line in the short story that I wish I'd included in the novel series somewhere. It's something Mary says to her bullying friend:

“Someday, when you’re no longer a child, you’ll understand what you’re saying,” Mindy said. “Someday you’ll understand who you’re talking to. Someday. For now, it’s alright. I understand, and I don’t hold it against you.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Mary Is Back Again for the First Time

My four-book Mary of the Aether series has had such a long, strange publication history, it's amazing that anyone has been able to find and read it. I wrote the first draft of the first book way back in 2009. In fact, I wrote it so long ago that it was actually technologically outdated. The characters were using flip phones. I mean, other than drug dealers, who uses a flip phone in 2018?

I sold the first book to an indie publisher called Whiskey Creek Press in 2011 and it hit the market in July 2012. Getting that first big box of books was a great feeling, even if I was concerned about the low-quality paper that caused the paperbacks to crumble into oblivion after the very first reading. In the summer if 2013, Mary of the Aether was included on a recommended reading list for Arkansas teachers and received a bunch of free publicity at a regional common core workshop. This resulted in me doing a bunch of creative writing workshops and book readings at schools and libraries.

In the meantime, I churned my way through the entire series, writing three sequels and bringing the series to a dramatic conclusion with Mary of Cosmos. Just as the fourth book reached its publication date, Whiskey Creek Press announced that they were folding up shop and selling their catalog to a company called Start Media. Only select authors were offered contracts by Start, myself included. I made a whopping $200 on the deal. Fortunately, I invested that $200 in an exciting multilevel marketing opportunity and it paid for my fleet of tricked-out Honda Accords.

Just kidding. I did take the $200, as did many (but not all) authors from Whiskey Creek Press. Then the awful silence of God descended upon the earth. Start Media acquired the catalog of books, put out their own versions, and that was it. They didn't do much in the way of publicity. Oddly, they actually introduced some formatting problems to Mary of the Aether, which already had a few typos and formatting problems from Whiskey Creek Press.

Fun times.

Eventually, things got a little bit exciting. Simon & Schuster, the big-time publishing house, bought Start Publishing, which meant my Mary of the Aether series was available on the Simon & Schuster website (ebook only). This should have been a big deal, but sales were as close to negligible as possible without being nil. Also, there was this weird thing that happened where the first three books of my series were listed on one webpage (out of order) while the fourth book was listed on a different webpage. Despite numerous emails, I was never able to get anyone at Simon & Schuster to fix this problem.

Funner times.

This year, I finally reacquired the rights to the whole darn series and decided to self-publish. This gave me a chance to go back through the manuscripts and tidy things up a bit. I corrected the typos and formatting problems introduced back in the day. I streamlined some clunky prose in a few places, added a few small scenes that I felt were lacking, and turned those outdated flip phones into modern smartphones.

Ironically, self-publishing is probably the best thing that has ever happened to the series. Sales for the new and improved self-published version of Mary of Aether are better than they have been in years. The first volume, in particular, is on its way to becoming my second most consistent seller, after Children of the Mechanism.

Things are looking up for good ol' Mary Lanham and her buddies the Devourers.

After finishing her work on Mary of Cosmos, my first editor raved about the series. In one of her final emails to me, she wrote the following:

I have to tell you, I have LOVED working on this series. It is one of my absolute favorites! I could definitely see this series doing well if it just catches on like it should!

Other than the initial interest back in the summer of 2013, maybe it finally has a real chance. People are reading it. If you haven't given the series a chance, let me entice you to do so now with the following review comments for the series:

"Jeffery Aaron Miller once again uses his unique knack for writing about other worlds to draw you in and to have you totally engaged in the story. Jeffery is a wonderful writer who can take you to a fantasy world yet still keep you in touch with the real world and its own conflicts. Mr. Miller just has the knack or ability to create these other worlds that are mixed with our own world, and yet the issues of growing up in this world, poverty, and unpopularity, are intertwined with the lofty goals of the other world. There is so much in his storytelling to admire and to recognize for the youth of today. I find his writing and storytelling abilities to be fascinating.   

"I found this book to be absolutely brilliant! After the first couple of pages it really picked up, and I could hardly put the book down as I felt like I, myself, was in the book alongside Mary!"  

"The story was fresh, the plot nicely paced, and the characters unforgettable!

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, now's your chance to check out the series. Will it be among the best experiences you've ever had in your entire life? I can't say for sure, but why don't we find out? Here is everything you've been waiting for. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Sequel to Shadows of Tockland

Yes, I am slowly creating the sequel to Shadows of Tockland. I say slowly because I am super busy at my real job, but occasionally I find time to whittle away at the story. I've written roughly 127 pages of the first draft. I shouldn't give anything away at this point. Suffice it to say, the story finds our intrepid Klown Kroo getting up to some dangerous shenanigans, thanks in large part to the ridiculous behavior of two specific members of the troupe.

Is that vague enough? Perhaps the opening paragraph will wet your whistle. Here it is:

David Morr brushed aside the tiniest curtains in the world, gazed through a window covered in muddy handprints, and saw a naked, pink monster writhing on an orange wool rug. He watched as the nameless animal clawed at its own belly and chest, a glistening tongue poking out from between generous lips to lap at the air. David grunted in disgust and let the curtains fall back into place, but still he saw it in his mind’s eye, all that yardage of hairless skin, the great heaps and mounds of it, distorted into abstract shapes like melting mountains. 

There you go. I'll keep plugging away at the novel. In the meantime, if you haven't read the first book, make it happen. If you have read the first book, read something else, like THIS or THIS or THIS.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Having Too Much Fun with Clowns

I've mentioned before that I enjoy creating chapter titles. I see them as opportunities to pique the interest of readers. My latest project is going to have some of the weirdest and most interesting chapter titles I've ever written. What is that new project?

A sequel to Shadows of Tockland, of course.

Now, if you've never read Shadows of Tockland, I highly recommend you give it a chance. It's hard to think of another book or movie that bears similarity to it. Let's summarize: in a post-apocalyptic version of Arkansas, a young man runs away from home to join a traveling clown troupe. Along the way, they encounter a city full of plague-ridden maniacs and a rampaging army from an empire called Tockland. It's brutal and strange, and the response has been mostly very positive.

Anyway, I've finally gotten around to writing the sequel, which is tentatively titled The Dust-Lords of Tockland. It takes place on the northern border of Nebraska and the future nation of Lakota. Lots of strange and terrible things happen, building to some interesting revelations. Is that vague enough? Well, let's just say Cakey the Jacked-Up Clown and Disturby Dave get up to some dangerous shenanigans while touring a new town.

On to the chapter titles. I've written the first four chapters, and here are the titles:

Chapter One: The One and Only Tiny Barrel-Shaped Lady
Chapter Two: Motel Memories
Chapter Three: Let’s Please Ruin Our Careers
Chapter Four: Everybody Loves a Clown with a Knife

See what I mean? I'm enjoying writing the novel very much, but I'm really looking forward to creating the chapter titles. This story is going in some weird, weird places, friends.

In the meantime, read the original right now, if you haven't already!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Terrorizing Real Places with Clowns and Mayhem

I have a tendency to take real-life locations, particularly places I've lived in or visited, and insert them into my works of fiction. I usually take substantial liberties with these locations, playing with the geography and timeline. I enjoy this perhaps more than I should. Let's take a look at a few real-life locations that I've inserted into my novels and discover the terrible things I've done to them.


This novel contains three real cities (all of them located in Northwest Arkansas) but moves them into a post-apocalyptic world and fills them with danger, violence, clowns, and plague. Isn't that nice?


This small town has inspired locations in two of my novels: Shadows of Tockland and Mary of the Aether. In Shadows, it becomes a steam-powered, gas-lighted town on the edge of civilization. When the novel opens, a small traveling circus has come to town, and that's where our protagonist first meets our clown heroes.

In reality, it's a small, quiet town with a strange dinosaur park. It's also home to the Dairy Dream, which inspired the Dinky Dairy in Mary of the Aether.

West Fork

In Shadows of Tockland, West Fork is a city of strange hat-wearing, plague-ridden hillbillies. In real life, it a town of about 2,000 people that is chiefly known for Riverside Park, where you can dive off bluffs and splash around in the White River.


In Shadows of Tockland, Fayetteville has been transformed by plague and war into a walled fortress city trying desperately to keep the sickness of the world at bay. The name has been reduced to Fayette, and the people have become hostile to everyone. In real life, Fayetteville is almost certainly the greatest city in Arkansas and is the fifth-best place to live in the U.S. Much of the action in the novel takes place in and around Dickson Street, so when the plague hits, watch out for Dickson Street, people. It's doomed!


Bartlesville, Oklahoma

This small Oklahoma town is where I grew up and went to high school. I have strong memories of this place in the years 1987-1991. It has changed a bit since then, with new roads being built and some old businesses disappearing from the face of the earth. The version of it in the novel has had its geography messed with. Tuxedo Trailer Park, the setting of the story, is a fiction. It doesn't really exist, though it is based on a much smaller trailer park where a friend of mine lived. I've also placed a strange alien power in its midst and set it loose to ruin lives, so that's fun.



Since this is a fantasy novel set in a completely different world, you might be surprised to discover that one of the primary locations in the story is based on a real place that I once visited. Siliven is a smallish town designed and built in a grid, where the north-to-south streets are numbered neatly from One to Ten. In the very center of the town, there's a large open plaza that serves as a meeting place. It's where a lot of significant events occur in the book series, and the dominant building there is the local church.

Believe it or not, Siliven is based on the city of La Plata, Argentina. Although La Plata is vastly larger than Siliven, it's layout is the same general idea. As you can see in the photo below, the streets of La Plata were designed and built in a grid. At the heart of the city, there's a large plaza which is dominated by the Cathedral of La Plata. If you took La Plata and shrunk it down significantly and moved it into a vague fantasy setting, you'd get Siliven.


West Fork is the scene is a brutal struggle with plague-ridden hillbillies. Fayetteville (Fayette) is the sight of a fierce gun battle involving a clown troupe, an army, another army, and a mob of maniacs. Bartlesville is invaded by weird ribbon-like creatures that stir up all kinds of evil, grief, and hatred. Siliven (La Plata) is haunted by ghosts and eventually terrorized by a weird cave-dwelling monster.

See how fun it is?