It's been WAY too long since I've posted something about the fifth book in the Milligan Creek Series, Snowbound. I'm happy to say that despite some pandemic-related delays, things are going strong, and I'm about halfway through the first draft with a good head of steam behind me. I had been hoping to complete the first draft by the end of June, but it looks more likely that I'll be able to wrap things up by mid-July. Every time I make a prediction like that, something seems to get in the way, but despite a mountain of other work, I'm still carving out time to work on it each day. I'm taking a page out of Stephen King's book and writing on is seven days a week.
The good news is, all sorts of new and unexpected developments are happening with the story, many of which are making me laugh, which is a great sign. If I'm surprised by what's happening, there's a good chance readers will be as well. I'm very encouraged by the strong sales of the first four books on Amazon over the past six months, so I can't wait to get this new book into readers' hands.
In addition, I'm already doing some brainstorming on books six and seven. For the moment, I'll say that one of those books revolves around Milligan Creek's movie theater, and the other one involves a mystery that's centred around some old, abandoned farmhouses around the community.
That's it for now. Back to Snowbound . . .
Up the Creek, the first book in the Milligan Creek Series, has just reached an important milestone (at least in my mind). As of this week, it's sold over 10,000 copies! That may not sound like a lot considering some books sell into the millions, but remember that this is an independently published book set in Saskatchewan of all places, and the majority of those sales have been into the good, ol' US of A. In fact, my biggest market is New York City. Go figure! As Frank Sinatra said, "If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere!"
I wrote the first draft of Up the Creek way back in 2001. I was living in Abbotsford, BC, at the time, and we had just had our first child. I'd gotten a bite on the book after pitching the first few chapters to a mid-sized Canadian publisher, so over the next few weeks, I knocked out the entire draft, revised it, and was about to send it in when . . . that publisher went under, along with a number of other Canadian publishers who were the first wave to go bankrupt in the face of the dot com boom and a major consolidation in the market. Feeling a bit disheartened and not knowing what to do with it, I set the manuscript aside as I spent the next fourteen years or so working in the film industry.
Then in 2015, with filmmaking opportunities dwindling and opportunities for self-publishing growing, particularly through Amazon, I decided to dust off the manuscript and see if I could find an audience.
Initially, I focused on Saskatchewan, seeing as that's where the story is set. Not knowing how to market the book directly to kids, I decided to go to the "gatekeepers" instead--teachers, librarians, and parents--by offering to do writing workshops. Not only did this provide a legitimate service to schools and libraries, it also got me in front of thousands of potential readers. The plan worked, and soon I was booking writing workshops all over Western Canada. That gave me enough confidence to continue the series, until today I'm working on the fifth book with plans for at least two more.
And it all started with Up the Creek, which has now become part of the childhood reading of thousands of children across North America. Considering how formative authors like Gordon Korman, Roald Dahl, and Farley Mowat were for me growing up, it's amazing to think my books are playing the same role for so many kids.
I often joke that writing is all about days and nights of misery punctuated by brief moments of despair--and then something really bad happens. It's not really that terrible, but it is a laborious process riddled with self-doubt. So, I'm a big advocate of celebrating little victories and milestones like this one. Thanks to everyone who has supported Up the Creek and the other books in the series. The best is yet to come!
I preach against procrastination all the time, arguing that it's a form of perfectionism, thinking you have to have all the answers in place before you begin writing. Instead, I tell students in my writing workshops that authors start out with a bunch of questions, and their stories are a way of discovering answers to those questions. Not only does that take the pressure off--you don't have to figure out everything before you put fingers to keyboard--it also makes for a more interesting story because if you didn't know something was going to happen, it's impossible for you to telegraph that to the reader.
All that to say, I've been procrastinating on Snowbound, the fifth novel in the Milligan Creek Series. Yes, I've been tremendously busy with other work, but I've also been fighting fear. Is the book going to be any good? Can I really pull this off again? Did I just get lucky the last few times? The same sorts of questions I ask at the start of any creative endeavour.
However, now that I've put out a novel a year for the past four years, by the time April rolls around, writing the next instalment of the Milligan Creek Series feels like exactly what I should be doing at this time of year. Also, thanks to the coronavirus, some of my other work has slowed down, giving me a bit more time. That and the fact I tend to wake up early (unwillingly), sometimes as early as 4:30 a.m., means I have a bit more time on my hands. So, on Sunday, with about 2.5 chapters written, I decided it was time to finally get the ball rolling.
Now here I am three days later. It's 5:58 a.m., I'm well into chapter four, and I'm more excited about this book than ever. Furthermore, I've committed to write about 1,000 words per day on the book until it's done. So, about a month from now, I should have a spanking new first draft.
That said, rather than working on the book right now, I'm writing this blog post. Another form of procrastination? It could be, so, time to get back to it . . .
The title of this post is a Homer Simpson quote, in case you're wondering. This is an interview I did recently talking about The Great Grain Elevator Incident and the Milligan Creek Series in general.
That's right, folks. All four books at one low price--just $9.99. You can get your Kindle copy here.
Currently, all four Milligan Creek Series books are in the top 20 on Amazon.com's Canadian Literature's best-seller list, and two of them are in the top 10. That's pretty exciting. I'm also getting a lot of great reviews, including a rating of 4.8/5 on Up the Creek! after 40 reviews. If you've read any of the books in the series and haven't reviewed or rated them yet, please take a moment to do so on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and Goodreads. Such reviews and ratings improve the search rankings, meanings more people will be exposed to the books. Thanks!
It's from Briar's Reviews. She's been a big fan of the other books in the series so far as well. Here's an excerpt:
Milligan Creek is one of the best middle grade series out there. Seriously – it brightens up my mood like Harry Potter did back in my youth. This series is packed full of fun, small town vibes, amazing friendships and hilarity. It’s the perfect series for those middle grade readers who want more than picture books but less than the big Harry Potter series (this book is under 200 pages!) . . . Overall, this book is an absolute gem as expected! I absolutely loved this book and I’m so happy I was able to jump back into this world. It’s one of my guilty pleasures that brings a big smile to my face and makes my days brighter!
You can read the rest of the review here.
For some reason that I'm still trying to figure out, the Milligan Creek Series is currently exploding on Amazon, particularly my first book, Up the Creek. Ever since The Great Grain Elevator Incident came out, sales of Up the Creek have skyrocketed, particularly in the United States--to the point that as of this very moment, Up the Creek is at the top of the Canadian Literature chart, Unlimited is in the number seven spot, and The Water War is gaining fast at number thirty-four. It's probably only a matter of time before The Great Grain Elevator Incident also finds its way onto the chart. It's a bit surreal, but I'm enjoying the moment while it lasts!
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!
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life