It's been 24 years since I last canoed Milligan Creek, right around this time of year. It was one of the voyages that inspired me to write Up the Creek years later. I've always regretted that we didn't have any photos of those trips, but then I realized we did! My mom gave me a photo album for my birthday this year, and to my surprise, included in it was a photo of us right after we set out. I'm in the stern of the second canoe in the photo below. My brother Al is in the bow. The guy in the lead canoe is Nevin Halyk, now the principal of my old high school in Foam Lake. Just out of frame is Victor Loeppky, who made the trip with me the previous year when we hit a dead tree and capsized. Looking down from the bridge is my mom, a.k.a. "Killer Miller."
I've held off on turning the Milligan Creek Series into audio books for a while now, partly because I wasn't sure if there was a market for middle grade audio books (I've since learned there is) and partly because I wanted to narrate the books myself but never seemed to find the time to do it.
However, recently I read something by fellow indie publisher, ad guy, podcaster, and coach Bryan Cohen where he said that even though you may be good at doing a lot of things, it doesn't mean you should be everything yourself. Instead, you should be focusing on what you do best and, perhaps most importantly, what makes you the most money.
That was a tough pill for me to swallow seeing as I enjoy learning new skills and seeing if I can pull them off. Case in point: on my last documentary, I was writer, director, producer, and editor. We only had a two person crew (me and my son, Huw), so I also worked as a cameraman, sound recorder, sound mixer, gaffer, grip, post-production supervisor, music supervisor, second-unit cameraman, and the list goes on. Contrary to appearances, it's not a control issue, just a desire to see if I can do it.
As I mulled over this advice, realizing Bryan was right, lo and behold, last Sunday my wife mentioned that someone I knew right here in town is an audio book narrator. I contacted him immediately, had him record a short sample, and just last night greenlit the project.
With any luck, Up the Creek (which just came out in hardcover) should be ready to go by the end of April, with the other books to follow. I'll keep you posted here.
I finally took the plunge and made Up the Creek available in hardcover, exclusively on Amazon. The other Milligan Creek Series books will follow shortly. The move involved resizing the book slightly and tweaking the cover, shown below. It also gave me an opportunity to add "A Brief Note About the Inspiration Behind This Book," which I've included in every other Milligan Creek series book. Plus, this edition contains a sneak peek at the first chapter of Unlimited. which will be the next book to get the hardcover treatment.
Snowbound!, book 5 in the Milligan Creek Series is now officially available for purchase in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and every other kind of Amazon. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, I've been unable to get copies to sell directly on my website, although you can buy the Kindle version here. With snow already falling in many parts of North America, this is the perfect time to read this winter-themed story, which takes place the week before Valentine's Day. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, be sure to spread the word by reviewing it on Amazon, Goodreads, or simply telling people you know!
Whoo-hoo! I FINALLY finished my first draft of "Snowbound," book 5 in the Milligan Creek Series. It's actually more than a first draft, seeing as I've already closely edited all but the last few chapters. It's also about 20 percent longer than my longest Milligan Creek book to date. Not sure what that means, but I'm running with it. What a sense of relief. Every time I start a new book or film, I'm always nagged by a voice in the back of my mind that says this time I won't be able to finish it. So far, that voice has been wrong. If all goes well, "Snowbound" will be available in November. Meanwhile, I've also solidified the plot for book 6, which will bring my love of filmmaking into the world of Milligan Creek. Here's a quick synopsis:
To celebrate their purchase of the old movie theater in Milligan Creek, the new owners launch a short film contest, complete with cash prizes and a chance to have the winning films screened at the theater’s grand reopening. When word leaks out that a real Hollywood movie will be filming nearby, Matt and Chad Taylor and their best friends Andrew and Dean concoct an outrageous plan to make their short film the most spectacular of all by secretly taking advantage of everything the big-budget production has to offer, but only if they can pull it off without getting caught!
After being snowed under with work pretty much ever since the pandemic started, which prevented me from continuing my work on Snowbound, book five in the Milligan Creek Series, I finally booked some time off starting last Wednesday and committed to writing 1,200-1,500 words per day on the manuscript while also trying to have some vacation time with my family.
So far, I've stuck to it, getting up early to write for a couple of hours each morning for the past eight days. The good news is, I think I'm about about four to five days away from completing a very solid first draft (I'm the kind of writer who tends to re-read and revise as I go). Kierston is also hard at work creating the cover illustration, in between delivering groceries to people who are at high risk from the pandemic. If all goes according to plan, the book will be ready to go by the end of September. It's been a lot of fun to write, and I can't wait to unleash it on the world. Stay tuned for more updates!
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 . . .
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life