I'm super excited to say that Brooms, book 2 in the Uncanny Icons Series, is now available in paperback and Kindle ebook (hardcover to come soon). Here's a teaser:
Sixteen-year-old Maggie Addison is a goon. At least that’s what she’s branded after she starts an epic hockey brawl following her team’s disappointing loss in the playoffs. Kicked out of the league for a year, her parents decide that Maggie’s best option is to lie low for a while. and what better place to do that than in a remote northern community on the shore of one of the largest lakes in Saskatchewan?
I had a lot of fun writing this novel, which draws so many of my interests together into one strange little package that's perfect for readers ages 12 and up. American buyers can purchase the book here. Canadians can purchase it here.
First it got longer, then it got shorter, and then it got longer again. After getting notes from my two beta readers and doing my own read-through, I have finally finished another major draft of Brooms, book 2 in the Uncanny Icons Series. I've taken my time with this draft, going through a few dozen pages per day, and the process has worked well. It's given me lots of time to think and reflect on various scenes and story elements, so I can give them just the right touch. All that remains now is to do a final read and polish. Then it's time for layout and e-book conversion. All things considered, I'm aiming for a release date of August 15, if not sooner.
In the meantime, check out the photo below. Believe it or not, it's the top of a curling hat that I found in a thrift store recently.
Spoiler alert: The Great Grain Elevator Incident, book 4 in the Milligan Creek Series, involves a tornado. Lo and behold, yesterday a tornado touched down right near my home town of Foam Lake, after which I modeled the town of Milligan Creek. Here are a few photos snapped by various folks. To the best of my knowledge, a tornado has never been sighted in that area before.
As I wait for my beta readers to finish their review of Brooms (I'm getting positive feedback so far!), I've begun laying the groundwork for book 7 in the Milligan Creek Series, LARPers, which I hope to release before the end of the year. In case you don't know, LARP stands for "live action role playing." It's where people who normally play role-playing games (RPGs) like Dungeons & Dragons move their adventures from the gaming table to the real world. See the Marvel TV series Hawkeye for an example of LARPers in action (although I had the idea for this book long before that show, seeing as I actually engaged in LARPing when I was in my early teens).
Now that I'm seven books into the Milligan Creek series, I thought it would be fairly easy to write this novel, seeing as I don't have to create a whole new cast, fantasy backstory, and so forth as I have to do with each book in the Uncanny Icons Series. Wrong.
Little did I realize when I signed onto this project that before I can write the actual story of what happens (which I've already pretty much mapped out), I have to come up an entire fantasy story that forms the background of the campaign that the RPG characters will play out. Not only that, I have to flesh out each RPG character, including their backstory and how they became part of the campaign. I also have to work out the real-world identities for three new characters that I'm introducing to the Milligan Creek world.
All that to say, far more groundwork is required than I anticipated. The good news is, a couple of years ago I spent some time developing a character named Thurgil Bloodguard as part of an online D&D campaign. I bailed out after the first phase of that adventure, but I decided to use Thurgil as the centerpiece of this new story. Over the past week or so, I've spent more time fleshing out his backstory, and that unlocked pretty much all of the other characters as well. I'm excited to say that all of the main pieces are now in place, so I can finally get back to the "real" story. My goal is to start the first draft in July.
I'll admit it: trying to come up with a way to make curling seem spooky was tough, but leave it to my talented artist, Hannah Doerksen, to pull it off. I think this book is going to look fantastic on the shelf right next to Pumpkins. Without further ado, here is the cover for Brooms, along with the book jacket blurb. Release date to be announced soon!
Fifteen-year-old Maggie Addison is a goon. At least that’s what she’s branded after she starts an epic hockey brawl following her team’s disappointing loss in the playoffs. Kicked out of the league for a year, her parents decide that Maggie’s best option is to lie low for a while. And what better place to do that than in a remote northern community on the shore of one of the largest lakes in Saskatchewan?
But this is not just any lake. It’s Reindeer Lake, supposedly home to the fabled Deep Bay Monster. Maggie has no time for such nonsense, preferring to keep herself rooted in the real world. However, the more time she spends up north, the stranger her “real” world becomes, to the point that she begins to wonder if it’s time to broaden her perspective, even if that means playing a sport that is the bane of her existence . . . curling.
Draft 1 of Brooms is complete! Not only is it the strangest novel I've ever written--way stranger than Pumpkins--it's also the longest, coming in at 74,248 words. Now that I've finally gotten that off my chest, I have just one more thing to say: "Let the editing begin!"
In case you haven't heard, the novel I'm writing right now, Brooms, book 2 in the Uncanny Icons Series, is about curling (and witches and lake monsters). Like virtually every other kid from small town Saskatchewan, I grew up curling, both informally and as part of a school team. However, I haven't played for decades, and even when I did play, I didn't have much insight into the game beyond draws and takeouts. So, as part of my writing process for this book, I've spent a lot of time schooling myself on basic curling strategy and tactics. It's been so fun that it's given me a hunger to get back into the game.
To help me visual certain sequences in the book, I found it helpful to create my own curling "rocks" and "ice." The above photo gives you a sense of what that looks like--Lego studs on a crudely drawn curling ring (the page subsequently covered with my scribbled notes from watching curling tutorials on YouTube). It doesn't look like much, but it's been immensely helpful in trying to solve certain story problems. As always, writing is a messy process, and I can't think of a better example of that than my artistic skills--except perhaps for my handwriting.
In addition to visualizing the game and certain shots or configurations of rocks on the ice, I also had to organize a bonspiel consisting of ten teams divided into two pools of five, each pool playing in a round-robin format. That took a bit of figuring, but I created a bonspiel schedule on a spreadsheet to help keep everything straight, and I'm so glad I did! These curling teams have some strange names, such as the Black Mammoth Front, so they would have been too difficult to keep track of otherwise.
The key takeaway is that there's never a right and a wrong way to do this. All that matters is doing what works, and this method certainly did.
I just killed someone. For the first time ever. And it was horrifying. At least I hope it was.
Oh, did I forget to include a little detail? I didn't do it for real. I did it in the novel that I'm currently writing, Brooms, book 2 in the Uncanny Icons Serie. However, the deeper I delve into this manuscript (nearly 43,000 words and counting so far), the more real this fictional world and the characters (and creatures) that inhabit it are beginning to feel.
In fact, when I broke for lunch after writing that scene today, I actually had to take a bit of time away from the manuscript just to process what had happened, seeing as I had no idea when I started writing that sequence this morning that that's how things would end up.
Now that the story has taken this turn, I'm super excited to find out where things will go from here, but I'm also a little bit frightened. If I didn't see this death coming, who knows who might be next?
The other day I wrote a post about how the often unusual type of research required to write a novel. On that day I was focused on lake monsters and such. Today it's been all about the occultic properties of different types of rocks and metals, a surprisingly interesting history of the evolution of curling rocks, pages that explain how to work with granite and attach things to it, and this page from Lee Valley (you'll have to read the book to find out how this item factors into Brooms). Plus, I also stumbled across the following painting that depicts people curling in 1635, which is close to when my story begins.
No matter what I'm writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, it always requires a lot of research. Some of this research I do beforehand, but other research happens on the fly as I'm trying to figure out how to crack a scene or if I need some key facts to make a character sound like an expert on a particular subject. Right now I'm in the midst of the first draft of Brooms, book 2 in the Uncanny Icons Series. As I've mentioned before, the book ties together witches, lake monsters, and curling. It also takes place on Deep Bay, which is at the south end of Reindeer Lake, Saskatchewan.
The scene I'm writing currently takes place in a school library, where the resident cryptozoologist is trying to make a case for why people who categorically reject the existence of lake monsters are wrong. Hence, right now some of the browser tabs I have open include a link to spurious correlations, a Skeptical Inquirer article on lake monster lookalikes, a satellite map of Reindeer Lake, and the official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register. Yesterday, my tabs included a description of the book Peter Puck: Love That Hockey Game, a map that shows the mythical monsters that haunt the US, and an image search for aquatic dinosaurs.
This is one of the funnest aspects of writing. I never know where the story is going to take me next. It also makes me tremendously thankful for the Internet because virtually anything I need to know is at my fingertips.
And for you budding writers out there, I can't tell you how many times research has spurred a story idea or helped me solve a problem that I've been stuck on. Case in point: Brooms also involves the five elements, both western (earth, water, fire, air, spirit) and eastern versions (water, wood, fire, earth, metal). The most difficult element to incorporate into this story has been fire. However, while researching the type of wood typically used to create the handle for a witch's broom (it's ash, by the way), I happened to stumble across an article that noted that ash trees are among the most likely trees to be struck by lightning (due to their high water content). Bingo! Suddenly, I had a way to incorporate a version of fire (electricity) into my story in a way that's 100% logical (something I always try to do). Keep an eye out for how that enters the story close to the book's climax!
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life