Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Bubble Gum Thief

Jeff Miller is an author.
I can't begin to tell you how that one sentence pleases me. I'm certain it pleases Jeff even more.

Jeff and I met as members of a small writers group in Clarendon, Virginia. The group gathered at a Barnes and Noble each week—second floor near the windows, sandwiched between History and Current Events. I always liked that. Something inspiring about entering the doors and seeing Fitzgerald, Whitman, and Shelley painted on the wall near the coffee shop, peering down. Ghosts of literature past blessing us with stern looks and the heady aroma of dark roast, the stinky petrol of writers. This was as close as our cross-section of Americana would get to a bohemian coffee shop where writers paid their bills with poems.

We had a librarian, a teacher, a lawyer—more than one I think, but that's to be expected just outside DC. Some of us were originally from the Midwest, the South, the east or west coasts, one even from Germany. We were young and old, male and female, newlyweded and long ago divorced. A few had kids, others hoped to, and some spoke of grandchildren. We had scholars, soldiers, mothers and daughters. All with tales so different, but one thing in common—we all wanted to be authors.

We'd gather in folding chairs set in a democratic circle and discussed, with great seriousness, the offerings each of us sacrificed to the group. Jokes were made to break the tension. There was always tension. No aspiring author sat in that circle with any less apprehension than an accused murderer before a bench. On trial our fragile, self-inflated dream; in every chair, a wicked child with a hat pin.

For years we gathered. Read numerous tales of knights, zombies, vampires, trolls, civil war romances, and space operas. Some were good. Others needed work. None were ever bad. In a place where everyone took a turn looking down the barrel, pulling the trigger was uncomfortable at best. The idea the same as the Hippocratic oath: do no harm. We were a class coming of age together, discovering how to accept criticism, build characters, and to just say no to misplaced modifiers. And we all wanted to be something. A children's novelist, a science fiction writer, the next Hemingway, King, or Tolkien.

Jeff wanted to write thrillers. He liked books that drew a reader in from the first sentence and kept them reading with excitement, intrigue, and mystery. That's the wheelhouse of a thriller. I always thought the same ideal could be applied to any genre—any fiction—and kick out a good result. In many ways Riyria is a fantasy set to a thriller tempo.

Not long after The Crown Conspiracy was first published, Jeff caught the golden ring landing a fantastic agent. His book was on the road to Big Six publishing. He only had to cut almost a third of the book. After he had, they asked him to put most of it back. The process was grueling, but who could argue with Glenda the Good Witch on the yellow brick road to see the wizard.

Then tragedy. As his agent was on the verge of submitting to publishers…she died.

As you can imagine this was devastating on multiple levels, and I could see a change in Jeff. The smile was gone. Not only had he lost his big shot, a person he worked with, who he was just getting to know, had unexpectedly died. Jeff picked himself up and went back to querying agents, back to knocking on doors and getting rejections—back to the beginning. Having read his book I was still positive he was going to make it, Jeff—not so much.

You need to understand that Jeff Miller—while not a pessimist—is a highly cautious optimist. Recently married with two young children and a demanding day job, he dreamed of being an author, but it was a vision he kept up on an unreachable shelf. He could look, but never expected to touch it. Didn't matter that he'd spent years learning the craft, then applying his skill to writing and re-writing a wonderful character-based police procedural thriller; such fortunes were the rewards other people got—not him. Everyone thinks that. I tried to tell him so, to tell him his book was good. I could see it on his face, in that self-conscious smile—he didn't really believe me. I didn't believe it when people told me either.

Jeff left the writer's group and moved to the Midwest a few months ago, which is disappointing as I can't see the smile on his face today. I imagine it is one of those wide, teeth-showing grins that will be with him for a long while. People will probably give him puzzled looks. It's just not normal for people to appear that happy.

I'm not with him. I can't see it, but I don't have to. I've been there. I walked on that same air. And I swear I heard a bell ring, saw a falling star, or stumbled past a four leaf clover, because you see The Bubble Gum Thief, a thriller by Jeff Miller, was published today. 

Special Agent Dagny Gray is smart, athletic, and fearless. She’s also fragile, depressed, and anorexic. If she doesn’t get healthy soon, the FBI will drop her—and she’ll never have a chance to end the crime spree of the so-called “bubble gum thief.” 

It all started with the theft of a pack of gum, and the ominous note he left behind: THIS IS MY FIRST CRIME. MY NEXT WILL BE BIGGER. Every two weeks, he delivers on this pledge, committing a bigger crime, and promising that the next will be even worse. When petty theft gives way to bloody murder, the stakes become clear. He may have begun with the smallest crime possible, but he’s building toward the biggest crime imaginable. 

There’s a method to the gum thief’s madness, and Special Agent Dagny Gray knows she can figure it out…if the Bureau will let her. But will it be in time to prevent the cataclysmic finale of his escalating spree?

This holiday season help make a newborn author's dream come true. Go read the sample on Amazon. If you like it, buy it and read it. Then leave a review on Amazon. For paperback go here. To visit Jeff Blog go here.

This is Jeff 's first novel, I hope it will be a huge success…I'm hoping his next ones will be bigger.

Congratulations, Jeff. And just for the record…I told you so. 


  1. Reading this is like reading a piece of Hemingway's Moveable Feast, only about our writer's group. My only question is, does this make you Gertrude Stein? So glad Jeff is finally seeing payoff for all his hard work. But who doubted?

  2. Jeff Doubted.

    Gertrude Stein? Does that mean I have to start buying art and having people over for drinks now?

  3. Hey, I still doubt. Always doubt. It's my motto.

    My mom found this post by googling and sent a link of it to me, which was funny.

  4. Congrats to Jeff on pushing through adversity to accomplish something that most people only dream of. Gives us all a little more hope that we can do the same.

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