I've been doing some research on jack o' lanterns for my new tween horror novel, Pumpkins, and I came across the image below. It's a jack o' lantern carved from a turnip, and it was made in Ireland sometime in the early 20th century. I thought it was suitably creepy enough to serve as an inspirational computer desktop that I can reference periodically during the writing process.
It's called the Tombstone Series, a trilogy of horror novels for tween readers. The first novel in the series is called Pumpkins. I actually outlined it last fall while on a trip to Brisbane, but I haven't had time to start writing it until now. The second book is called The Judges, and it will actually be an adaptation of a film script of the same name that I wrote some time ago but was never satisfied with--until now! As for book three, that idea hasn't fully coalesced into a title yet, but it will soon.
Unlike the Milligan Creek Series, which follows a chronological order and features the same central cast in each novel, each title in the Tombstone Series will feature an entirely different cast, the connective tissue being a haunting of sorts. I'm hoping this doesn't delay the release of my fifth Milligan Creek novel, Snowbound, but I feel the need to explore another world right now creatively, so if it puts things off by a few months, I know that by the time I return to Milligan Creek, I will feel refreshed and ready for the next chapter in that story.
Below is a photo of Kierston Vande Kraats, the talented woman who draws Meth the Immortal and who also illustrates my covers for the Milligan Creek series. You can see more of her work here. She also has a fantastic Etsy shop that's full of all sorts of cool Meth merch!
Oh, and she also has an apparel store. Here's a sample.
The title of this blog post is the title of a recent review of Meth the Immortal Volume 1 on Goodreads. Here's the rest of it:
The book was amazing in a weird kind of way. I loved the concept of an immortal talking pig named Methuselah (Meth). And how a homeless boy and an archeologist is involved in the story. It was unique, intriguing, fast-paced and hilarious.
If you haven't had a chance to read Meth yet, volume 1 is a great way to go. Available in Kindle format on this website with hard copies on their way. If you can't wait, you can always order it on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
I'm probably a surprised by this news than anyone because just five days ago, I wrote a post saying I hoped to have the first draft finished by the end of August, and here we are a day before the end of July, and I've already reached my goal!
It all started yesterday morning when I stumbled into my office at 6:11 a.m. (I usually write for 1-1.5 hours before breakfast) trying to solve a problem I'd left for myself on Saturday. Suddenly, inspiration struck, and I was off. Incidentally, I love it when my characters surprise me, because that means it's almost guaranteed my readers will be surprised, seeing as I couldn't possibly have subconsciously steered the story in a certain direction, dropping hints along the way. Unless my subconscious mind was already doing that for me . . .
At any rate, after that flash of inspiration, I started writing, thinking I would knock off a chapter or two. But, as with the final few chapters of The Water War, I just kept going--and going--until my typical quitting time of 4:30 p.m. By that time I had written just over 10,000 words, effectively bringing my story to a conclusion. I still need to add a bit more to the denouement to tie up a few loose ends, but for all intents and purposes, the first draft is complete. A huge load off my mind. Now the fun part begins--editing! I'd say I plan to have that process complete by the end of August, but I know I'll have it done sooner than that. Then it's off to my merciless beta readers--my wife (Heidi) and my oldest daughter (Gretchen). Once I get their feedback, I'll make a few final tweaks, and then we should be good to go. Meanwhile, Kierston is doing preliminary sketches for the cover. It all goes well, we are looking at a September release date.
I will say one thing: although I always knew roughly how the story would end, this book takes a much more serious turn toward the end than the previous three books in the series, with something happening that will change Milligan Creek forever. In this way, it mirrors some of the real-life events that happened while I was growing up in Foam Lake that inspired the story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll just leave it at that. The next time you hear from me, it should be to show you a preliminary cover sketch or maybe even a brief excerpt. Stay tuned!
As a writer, sometimes you fall in love with a line, to the point where you'll sacrifice anything and everything to keep it, for better or worse--usually for worse. That was the case with issue 3 of Meth the Immortal. I had a great line that I didn't want to lose, but there was one problem: It required a panel that showed some topless women on a nude beach. I sell a lot of books in schools, so I knew it was a bit of a stretch, but I felt the context of the joke would actually get me under the wire, because it plays on different cultural sensibilities regarding female breasts and modesty in general. However, after showing it to my wife and daughter, they nixed it immediately. Thankfully, I was able to get Kierston to draw a PG version. I originally uploaded the NSFW version, so a handful of them got out into the wild, which means they may become collector's items one day. For the record, below is the NSFW version, followed by the PG version, which required a slight tweak to the dialogue as well as the image.
Once again, I let nearly a month lapse on The Great Grain Elevator. There I was with a great head of steam, hoping to finish the first draft in June, but suddenly I was engulfed by a sea of other work, including finishing up my new documentary, releasing the latest issue of Meth the Immortal (plus a compendium of all three issues), and various other side projects that I do to keep the lights on. At any rate, I started up again yesterday, and the manuscript now stands at just over 28,000 words. Typically, these books run to about 45,000 words, so I'm getting close, and now my goal is to have a finished draft by the end of August. We'll see. The good news is, I just went through all that I've written so far and did an edit, and I'm still super excited about the book. I'm also about to get Kierston started on the cover, which always offers a good incentive to keep slogging. On that note, back to my draft.
Just to give you an idea of what I'm up to on issue 3 of Meth the Immortal, here's a peek at p. 19 before lettering.
Now here's what it looks like after lettering is complete. Note that in panel 3, I also fixed an inconsistency in the moon phase with a well-placed dialogue balloon. It's fun to see the story come to life before my eyes like this.
Actually, it's more than begun. I'm about halfway through the third issue. It's a painstaking process, which involves constantly resizing and reshaping voice bubbles and captions, cutting dialogue that doesn't fit, choosing the correct font for various sound effects, sizing them and placing them on the page, and so on. It's a lot of work, but it's so much fun to see the story finally come together page by page. I'm on p. 17 of this whopping 32-page issue, so I have a ways to go, and right now I only have time to chip away at a couple of pages a day, but I will put in extra time on the weekend and (hopefully) get this off for a proof before the end of next week. It's been a long time coming, so I can't wait to finally get this issue out into the world.
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life