Meet Duke Miller

Below is my original introduction to Duke Miller, a writer who earlier this year re-released a truly unforgettable collection of stories based on the years he spent working as an aid worker. The new edition contains sections from his other publication: Handbook for the Hopeless and is available for sale on Amazon.


Duke Miller with Missa Him (I’ve been told not to ask about the name) the dog who saved him when he fell off the cliff and got inspired to write LADWD.

Now readers, I did not sneak into his boudoir to get this shot.  This is honest-to-God the picture Duke Miller sent me for this post which, since the title of his book includes “dog,”  is supposed to prove that he actually does live with dogs – or at least sleep with them.

I met Duke in the author chat room on Booktrope’s  (our publisher’s) internal web site in October 2013.  It was a pretty dull place until he showed up.  Nothing but tips on how to market your book, or meet and greets with other authors. He was so honest, so hilarious, so original I just had to check out his book on Wattpad.

WOW. He blew me away.  So much so that I wrote a blurb for the back cover of his first edition, along with several other authors.

HR Backcover JPEG image

Here’s what I wrote: “If John Lennon had been an aid worker in the dark places of the world, this is the book he would have written.  Duke Miller has the same brutal poet’s soul, which, combined with a dry wit and illuminating vision, should make this book an instant classic.”

But instead of going on my word, read his words for yourself.  From the Prologue to LIVING AND DYING WITH DOGS.

“As I lay there, the rocks were grinding me into dust and then the title and voice of this book came to me. They were competing with my need to die properly at the base of the cliff, but I didn’t die. I crawled back up telling myself that I could make it as my dogs flew around me with dog capes fluttering in the air. I started writing in my mind that night in the hospital: blood for ink, air for pages, past for honesty. “Living and Dying with Dogs” is not a novel or a collection of short stories. It’s a lack of character study; a kind of long , sad poem written in constantly updating akashic sentences that have evolved into skins or life maps that hang in the closet of my heart. It’s about how I die. Paint by the numbers and with each pigment, you add what I was and what I am and maybe what I hope to be. The images are the people I left behind. I don’t want to take them with me into oblivion at the bottom of some new cliff just ahead. You take these emotions , these characters. If you don’t mind, let them loiter in your heart for a few days or longer. Most of them had a pretty rough time. They’d like that.


Duke with his first friend in Guanajuanto, a hotel owner and spaceship designer. Although a mad genius and plastic artist, he is also a force for good – fighting street gangs and sometimes winning.

The voice you will be hearing bets on the dying, fiddles with autofellatio, smokes opium, takes amphetamines, brushes against pedophilia, leaves people for dead , drinks too much, says things he shouldn’t, aborts babies, disappoints lovers, kicks the dying, weeps uncontrollably , causes his tortured lover to go to jail, can’t sleep, lies, and looks upon orgasms as a sort of Sasquatch of the lower realms. But other than that, he’s a good guy and if you could sit with him over a beer or a joint , you’d probably like him. Think of him as a prehistoric creature, swishing his tail across the yellow grass of a savanna; oblivious to the world around him, but rising up like a primordial freeway sign pointing the way towards the unfinished off ramp. Which raises the ancient questions of this poem: Can a person care and not care at the same time? Why do good people do bad things? Why do bad people do good things?”

From Jan: Since I originally posted this “interview” back in 2013, I’ve come to even further appreciate Miller’s work which you can read more of at TinHatsblog. Or on this site under Snippets. 


The Mourning Dove Hopes

This week I’m going through the edits of book two, tentatively called The Graduation Present


I traveled all over Europe in this ancient VW bug… Only broke down once!

The story is very, very, very loosely based on the year I spent in Europe back in 1970, a time when two wars waged – the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  However it was a different war that still cast a dark cloud over the continent.  World War II.  The heroine/narrator suffers from overactive imagination syndrome thus when she is thrust into perplexing situations, she overreacts. It doesn’t help that her guardian is a paradox.  On one hand he is a hopeless romantic, a sappy sentimentalist and gregariously generous.   On the other, he has a bawdy sense of humor that borders on lewd, cannot be pried from Happy Hour, and he may work for dark forces of evil lurking within the CIA.

"Jan at fifteen"  by Connemoira

“Jan at fifteen” by Connemoira

What results is a comic romp through Europe to solve a mystery which may not exist as our heroine, Miss Riley Ann O’Tannen, learns that wars cast long shadows but somehow people survive.  They might not survive with the same hopes and aspirations as privileged Americans, but they do survive and usually with a realization of what is really important.  Pub date is in May 2014.

On to Pretty Kitty news:


Rice flavored with garlic? You gotta be kidding.

Despite all manner of wooing, Pretty Kitty has not been convinced to come inside and join the family.  She’s getting treats, Friskies and rice flavored with garlic (hubby assures me that cats can’t resist rice flavored with garlic but I have my doubts.)  However, she still runs when we try to pet her.  Sigh.  Hubby is about to give up hope.


You’re feeding the fuzz ball? Well, good luck chump!

The squirrels continue to be pissed that hubby is cavorting with Pretty Kitty.  They’ve taken to chattering angrily at us from tree limbs.


The mourning dove waits for his mate to return.

I end with the sad story of this mourning dove.  He used to have a mate (mourning doves mate for life) however then the hawk came along and now the one sits in the cherry tree near where his mate was killed and waits.  Apparently hope knows no end for the mourning dove.

Write about cats instead!

The following is a repost in honor of Cat Day! 

We call this little sweetie Pretty Kitty.  IMG_3254She shows up at our back door every morning looking hungry.  At first we shooed her away


“What do I look like? Cat food?”

because of this little guy and his friends who aren’t particularly fond of kitties whether they’re pretty or not.

But she would retreat only as far as the hill above us and look down, sometimes sneaking onto the deck when she thought we weren’t watching to gain a prime perch from which to hunt.  As far as we know, she’s not a very good birder.  We haven’t found piles of feathers or half-eaten carcasses.  We did however catch a rat.  Darn, I guess she’s not a ratter either.

Before Christmas hubby began to worry that she might be an abandoned cat so he decided to put out a bowl of Friskies leftover from our cat sitting days to see what she did.


“Delete, delete, delete – will you ever learn how to use a semi-colon?!”

(here’s a pic of Rocket Kitty, our grandcat.

Like many cats associated with writers.  Rocket Kitty provides free editing services whenever he visits.)

Hubby set Pretty Kitty’s  bowl far away from the railing where his other pets (the birds, quail and squirrels) expect their treats but near enough so that we could watch what she did.  Sure enough, she gobbled everything we set out.  Still her coat appears well-groomed, her eyes bright. Maybe she just likes Friskies better than what she’s getting at home.  She still runs when we get too close but gradually she’s let us near enough to snap a few pics so I could go on line and figure out what kind of cat she is.  The closest breed seems to be this one:

A ragdoll cat is so named because of their propensity to go limp when picked up.  They’re also called “puppy cats” because they like to follow their owners around, particularly when young.  They’ve got big bones, silky fur and bright blue eyes. They are also one of the largest cat breeds. You can see in this pic just how big Pretty Kitty is…


Anyway, six days into the New Year and I’ve already broken my resolution to write only about dogs. Worse yet, I am falling in love with a kitty who probably has a home somewhere and alas my poor heart will be broken once again.  My, my.  2014 does not portent well for the Twissel so far.  Last year at this time, I’d just a signed a contract with Booktrope and expected the sky to open.  It did not.  Now another book’s going through the process.  Will it set the world on fire?  Probably not.  Will Pretty Kitty eventually go limp in my arms?  Who knows.  Each new year comes with a question mark and no promises.  Just hopes and dreams and schemes which may go broke.  That’s why God gave us friends.  Okay, God didn’t give us friends. If you want friends, you’ve gotta work for them which is a better New Year’s resolution than not writing about dogs, don’t you think?


Neither a mountain lion nor a teenage driver but a bird.

Now that all the holiday folderol is over, we should post a flyer about Pretty Kitty around the neighborhood.  Hubby will undoubtedly give a thorough tongue lashing to her owners, if indeed they come forward.  Ours is a dangerous neighborhood for kitties – mountain lions, raccoons and big dogs. Not to mention, teen drivers.

Sigh. I’ll let you know how it goes and again, sorry about the dog thing.  Resolutions are meant to be broken.


Kitty luxuriating in his kitty condo.

Update Oct. 29:  Well, as those of you who’ve followed the blog all year know, Pretty Kitty turned out to be a boy and because of his green eyes, he cannot be a ragdoll. However he doesn’t seem to care.  He’s now in possession of two humans who buy him all sort of treats and cater to his every need.

“What greater gift than the love of a cat.” Charles Dickens