Readers frequently ask, “Where do you get the ideas for your books?”  I guess, in large part, my ideas stem from a combination of personal experiences, research, and a tendency to fantasize.

I was born in Culver City, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.  At that time my father worked for MGM Studios, first as a security guard, then as a stuntman, and finally as an associate film producer.

     
LedsonReunion8
     

About the time I started school, my father left MGM and went to work for the United States government, and my family moved from Culver City to the Republic of Panama.

My early and intermediate school years were spent primarily in Panama.  My father was of mixed American and Panamanian descent, and as a result, my family lived on both sides of Fourth of July Avenue, the thoroughfare that formed the border between the Republic of Panama and the American Canal Zone.  In Panama City, we lived in La Cresta, Bella Vista, Rio Abajo, and San Francisco de la Caleta.  In the Canal Zone, we lived in Cocoli, Ft. Kobbe, Curundu, Ancon, and Balboa.

   

Panama City 

Canal Zone
   

When I reached my teens, my father relocated to Belize (then called British Honduras) and the rest of my family and I returned to the United States.  We settled in Hammond, Louisiana, where I attended high school and college.  I spent my summers in Belize, working on my father’s tugboat and construction projects.

   

Hammond, Louisiana 

Belize City, Belize
   

During this period, I developed a love of novels.  I particularly liked those set against unusual settings and cultures, such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, James Michener’s Hawaii, Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

I dropped out of college after a year, and enlisted in the Marine Corps.  Then after serving my four-year hitch, I wound up in New Orleans, where I went to work for Chevron Oil and lived in the French Quarter.

     

Marine Corps

Marine Corps

French Quarter
     

After a year in New Orleans, I relocated to Houston, where I went to work for Shell Oil.  After a 30-year career at Shell, supervising information processing groups, I took early retirement to try my hand at writing fiction.  To prepare myself for this second phase of my life, I took a series of writing courses through Rice University’s Continuing Education Program and attended a number of writers’ conferences.

As settings for my first two novels, Belize and Panama, I drew upon my youth in the Tropics.  I also did extensive research, including several trips to both countries to explore the landscapes as an adult.

   

 Belize City – a former residence

Mayan ruins

Panama City – a former residence

Spanish ruin
   

My original intent was to work my way through the Caribbean.  After Belize and Panama, I planned next to set novels in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica . . .

Finding publishers for my first two books proved to be a greater challenge than writing them.  After scores of rejections, I sold Belize to a mid-size press, only to have them go out of business, two years later, just before the book was to be released.  Next, for a year and a half, a major publisher in England professed interest in Belize, but then abruptly decided not to publish it.  With Panama, I experienced a similar series of near misses.

As a result, fed up with the publishing business, I decided to self-publish both books.  And then for a couple of years, I abandoned writing and passed most of my time playing pool.

 

“Danny’s Sports Bar” team, competing at the
Billiards Congress of America National 8-Ball Tournament
 at the Riviera Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas
 

At one point while seeking representation for Belize and Panama, a respected New York City literary agent had told me, “Mr. Miller, you’re a fine writer, but why do you insist on taking me to these ghastly places?”

While I disagreed that the places where I’d spent my youth were “ghastly,” when I later returned to writing, her comment prompted me to abandon my plans for a Caribbean series and to look for a setting in the United States.  By this time I’d moved out of Houston and settled on the nearby Gulf Coast.  I decided this would be the landscape for my next novel, and my subject would be pool.

The Hustler had portrayed pool in the 1960s, and The Color of Money had done the same for the 1980s.  With Stroke, my objective would be to capture the current world of pool.  Gambling and hustling are still part of the culture, but now there also are amateur leagues, professional tours and independent tournaments.  And most importantly, now, many of the top players in the world are women.  I decided in Stroke, my main character would be a woman.

As the New York agent had predicted, now I was able to find a publisher, albeit a small press, and Stroke went on the market in 2004. 

   
  
Signing and selling at the annual
Billiard Congress of America National 8-Ball Tournament
 at the Riviera Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas
   

Unfortunately, five years later, the publisher went out of business, and to keep Stroke in print, I again had to resort to self-publishing.  However, encouraged by my success with Stroke, I wrote a fourth novel, French Quarter Danny, and I also was successful in finding a publisher for it.  As with my other books, in this novel I draw on personal experiences, research, and imagination.

 
 

Most recently, I’ve written two memoirs: Who Speaks for Earth? and Skin of My Teeth, and I presently am deciding on my next writing project.

   
  
Balcony views, from Nassau Bay, Texas

Casper's Billiards - San Leon, Texas
  
“He is the cat that walks by himself,
and all places are alike to him.”
             Kipling