Saturday, 30 June 2012

"The Balthazar Experiment" Experiment

One of my goals as a writer was to write a middle-grade science fiction novel. I've always loved sci-fi. I love the idea of SPACE and I love robots and hoverboards and phasers set to stun and all of that techie goodness. But I had no idea of the intricacies of these things. Therefore, I knew writing a sci-fi novel for kids would be a great challenge for me.

As I was writing my series of books called THE HOLE STORIES, in the back of my mind I kept seeing this robotic finger running down the cheek of a very young boy. The boy was looking up with adoration and love in his eyes. What I was seeing had nothing to do with what I was writing, so I stored it away.

When I stepped away from THE HOLE STORIES for a while, I decided to pursue the story behind the strange, touching image locked away inside of me. I spent several months researching robotics and space exploration and climate change and I cobbled together several dozen pages of notes (and facts) I would use in my story. I outlined my first six chapters in detail and began to write.

I like to think I have an organic style of writing. Usually, I have an idea in my head as to where I want my characters to end up, but how they get to that end can change from day to day depending on how I am feeling. I had never outlined any of my chapters before, so when my story started to take on a life of its own, moving in and out of my outline, I was thrown for a bit of a loop. After writing my first few chapters, I was actually getting frustrated with the lack of control I had over the novel (which is strange, because it is that organic, lack of control I usually love). This frustration quickly turned into writer's block. Like so many other novels before it, my just begun sci-fi story for kids ended up in my DEAD STORY FOLDER. It was easier, at the time, to move on to something else than to pull all of my hair out trying to break through the wall I had inadvertently built in front of me.

When my adventure with THE HOLE STORIES finally ended, I was looking for something new to write. My book of ideas was full of potential, but nothing was grabbing my attention...making me want to invest. And then one night a few weeks back that image appeared in my head again...that robotic finger running down a young boy's cheek. Because I had fleshed this scene out a couple of years back, I knew a bit of the back story behind it. I also knew I was being told (by my subconscious) to finish the book. I printed out a copy of what I had written to date and I read it and I couldn't believe how gripped I was by what I had written.

Writers are usually quite humble about what they have written (at least I am). I'm usually happy with what I write, but I will always tell people that I could have written it better. I was suddenly very excited about what I had written and a new feeling was welling up inside of me: anticipation. I couldn't wait to see how the story was going to end. Unfortunately, I was still suffering from that darned thing called "writer's block." Maybe you've heard of it.

When I decided how I wanted my "writing career" to move forward, and the stress of trying to get published again and making money from my words disappeared, I opened myself up to a whole new way of writing...a whole new enjoyment. And because my motivation to write had changed, I decided to do a little literary experiment to try to finish my first work of science fiction. I decided to put a little healthy pressure on myself (for I have always worked best under pressure) and write it as an online serial novel. That way, when I get to the point where I am stuck, timeliness (and hopefully, your interest) will help me move it forward.

The novel is called THE BALTHAZAR EXPERIMENT and beginning Monday, July 2nd, 2012, I will upload a new chapter every Monday until the book comes to a proper conclusion. Right now, a conclusion is in my mind, but as I said above, how we get to it is all up to fate, my fluctuating emotions and constructive comments from my readers.

So put on your helmets, strap on your jetpacks and join me, if you the stars.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Waiting for a Swine... I Mean a Sign

Book One of my planned five-book middle-grade series THE HOLE STORIES was published in May 2007 by Thistledown Press. As the years passed by, my five-book series became a trilogy and I began to play a waiting game for the sequel to be published. FOWL, SWINE AND THINGS THAT SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE was written and ready for the world, but I couldn't get an answer from anyone as to whether it would ever see the world. After five years of waiting, I decided I would have to be the one to deliver it. The people who had read the first book wanted to know what happens next. They wanted to know about the strange swans alluded to at the end of the first book.

When I opened the box of books (that arrived by mail only a day ago) and flipped through the pages, I realized I had made the right choice doing it my way. The book looks and reads beautifully. And even though FOWL, SWINE AND THINGS THAT SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE has been available as an eBook for the past seven months, there is something new and exciting about reading it in paperback form.

These very special, very limited paperback editions of FOWL, SWINE AND THINGS THAT SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE are only available through my online store. Get your copy now! And for a short time, you can also purchase signed copies of my first novel THE KING OF ARUGULA.

Fowl, Swine and Things That Send Shivers Down Your Spine
(Very Limited) Paperback Edition
Only Available At

Excerpt from 
By Christopher Millin

And when Onus woke, the sun was warming his forehead.

He turned to see Twig’s eyes fluttering.

“How long have we been sleeping?” Twig asked when he noticed Onus looking at him.

“I don’t know,” Onus said. “Oh wait. I’ve got the watch Fang left me last night.”

He dug around in his pocket and pulled out the watch. “That’s odd,” he said.

“What’s odd?” Twig said.

“The watch must be broken, because it has the same time on it as when I looked at it last night. 11:49.”

“Well maybe it’s that time now. Just a.m. instead of p.m.”

“Nope,” Onus said. “The watch says 11:49 p.m.”

But the time no longer concerned Twig. “Where…where are we?” he asked.

The sidecar had stopped rocking. It had stopped floating. It had stopped. It was buried in the dirt and sand along a muddy beach. It was a muddy beach that stretched for miles and miles along what the boys could now see was a river. Water from the river lapped up against the back of the sidecar, like it was trying to spit the sidecar even further up on the beach, like the sidecar tasted bitter, or it was just too big to swallow.

“We fell asleep, Twig. Who knows how far we floated,” Onus said. “We have to find a phone.”

“Shouldn’t we find out where we are first?” Twig asked.

Onus jumped out of the sidecar. His feet sunk into the mud, but with a little effort he was able to pull one out. It made a funny suction sound, kind of like the sound Twig made after he ate too many beans. “Phooot.” He pulled the other foot out and it made the same sound. “Phooot.” Slowly, he walked towards a big hill of rocks just up the beach from where the sidecar had beached itself.

Phooot. Phooot. Phooot. Phooot.

“Hey, Onus,” Twig said. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to find out where we are and then I’m going to find a phone.”

Twig took off his helmet and jumped out of the sidecar. His feet sunk as well. His feet sunk even deeper than Onus’s feet. His feet had sunk so deep that he couldn’t pull them out like Onus had. He couldn’t make them make that funny suction sound that Onus’s feet were making.

“Onus, I’m stuck.”

“Use your hands,” Onus said.

“What do you mean?”

“Wrap your hands around your knee and use the strength of your arms to lift your foot out of the mud.”

“Of course,” Twig said.

He grabbed under his knee and using all his strength he pulled upwards.


“I got it!” Twig yelled. He put his hands underneath his other knee and lifted upwards.


Each step he took, it seemed his feet sunk a little deeper. “How come your feet aren’t sinking as deep as mine, Onus?”

Onus looked back at Twig. “I guess you weigh more than me. Heavier objects are naturally going to sink deeper.”

But Twig couldn’t figure out how he could weigh more than Onus. Twig essentially was a twig. Even though he was older than Onus, he was skinnier and he had a smaller shoe size than Onus. By the time Twig met Onus at the bottom of the hill of rocks he was exhausted. What would have taken less than a few seconds on paved ground, took him a whole five minutes. It was five minutes of lifting one leg and then lifting the other. Lifting one leg, then lifting the other. Lifting one leg, then lifting the other. You get the point. And as I’m sure you know, a leg weighs quite a bit, even if it’s just made of flesh and bone.

The rock hill was as high as a basketball hoop, an easy enough climb if you hadn’t just spent the last five minutes lifting your legs out of the mud they had been continuously sinking into. “I need to rest for a second, Onus.”

“That’s odd, Twig. I really thought I weighed more than you,” Onus said.

“I was just thinking the same thing.”

“I should have sunk just as deep, if not deeper than you had.”

“You should have sunk just as deep, if not deeper than I had.”

Something near the river breathed a deep breath. The boys stopped talking. They both looked down near the river where the sidecar was stuck. The muddy beach began to move. It caved in and they heard the breathing sound again. Then the beach filled back up with mud and sand. It was like the ground below them had begun to breath. Up and down it moved, like your chest when you are breathing. Up down. Up down. The sidecar was moving now, rocking back and forth. Rocking back and forth. And with each breath the beach took, the sidecar sunk a little. Sinking. Sinking. Sinking. And within seconds it was gone, swallowed up, breathed in, nowhere to be seen.

“We’ve got to climb the rocks now,” Onus yelled.

“But I’m so tired,” Twig said.

All along the river’s beach things were being swallowed up. Driftwood went under. Piles of stones went under. The skeletons of large fish went under. The beach was eating up everything it could…everything that was lying on top of it.

“If we don’t climb the rocks now the beach is going to eat us, too,” Onus said.

He grabbed a hold of a rock and started to climb. The rocks were sharp and rough, but the slight pain in his hands was a lot better than the extreme pain of being swallowed by a beach that seemed to have a taste for everything. If it could eat a motorcycle’s sidecar, it could surely eat a ten-year-old boy.

He climbed half way up the hill and looked back to see Twig still catching his breath. A large tree branch just beyond Twig disappeared under the ground. “Twig, hurry up and climb!” Onus yelled.

Twig turned just in time to see the end of the branch go under. The time he had to catch his breath was now officially over. If he waited any longer he would end up like the tree branch. Gone. He grabbed a rock and tried to start climbing, but he was stuck. The beach had a hold of his left foot. It swallowed his foot and began swallowing his whole leg.

“It’s got me, Onus! Help!”

©Christopher Millin 2012