Wednesday, 13 August 2014

I Wrote a Story For a Three Year Old and I Got Schooled

I always believed stories for young children were the most basic, easiest stories to write… until I was challenged to write one. Having never written something for someone who is younger than seven, I approached the writing no differently than I'd approach writing my middle-grade novels.

My first draft was filled with wordy conversations between all the different species of animals in the book. It was filled with metaphors and subtle humour and messages about tolerance and acceptance. It was wonderful (in my opinion), but as I quickly learned, not even close to suitable for the age group I had set out to write it for.

It took a friend of mine, who was once an elementary-school teacher, to put my writing (and me) in its (and my) place. She took the hardcopy of my first draft and she took a big red pen, and for half an hour she hacked away five thousand of the seven thousand words I had written. She also hacked off a big chunk of my ego. What remained was SCUTTLED. To my astonishment, it was all there the first time around, but it was hidden underneath all that literary fat I so often rely on in my more mature novels.

SCUTTLED is not the greatest thing I've ever written, but for something I pieced together in a couple weeks after being challenged to write it, I'm pretty happy with the outcome. More than that, what the challenge showed me is that sometimes it's okay to get rid of the fat and show the muscles stretching… the bones moving. It's okay not to have some kind of 'clever' in every sentence. Simple and straightforward can be a good thing.

I will take the knowledge I gained writing a story for a three year old and I will incorporate it into my future writing for children (and adults)… and I think my writing will be better because of it.

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Findings From My Literary Experiment

In July 2012 I set off on a literary adventure unlike any I had been on before. I began writing an online serial novel for teenagers. I knew the market was virtually nonexistent, but I felt it was a great way for me to flesh out a science-fiction story that had been boring its way through my brain for more than three years.

Every week I wrote a new chapter and sent it out into the world via a dedicated website where it was read and critiqued in real time (read more about THE BALTHAZAR EXPERIMENT experiment HERE). After I completed the story, I compiled the chapters and notes and suggestions, and I slipped everything into a folder on my desktop, where it all matured and evolved for more than a year.

When I returned to THE BALTHAZAR EXPERIMENT two months ago, I had never been more excited to get down to editing. I worked diligently to turn the story, which relied heavily on cliffhanger chapter endings (due to its serial nature) and uber-fast pacing, into a more complete novel. I worked on world building and character development. I honed a lot of the dialogue and improved a lot of the science. In the end, a compelling, thought-provoking, touching and thrilling YA science-fiction novel was in front of me.

And now it can be in front of you.

THE BALTHAZAR EXPERIMENT is currently available as an eBook. You can download it HERE.

Excerpt from
By Christopher Millin

Xavier liked living, if not in the darkness, then just on the edge of it. The past -- the time before "The Film" and HelperBots and curfews -- was considered a dark spot in human history and was one of the only things in life that interested him. He constantly thought about the past. He wondered about silly things like what people one hundred years ago thought the future might be like. Did they envision homes in the clouds and flying vehicles? Did they think people would vacation on the moon and aliens would be their next door neighbours? He wondered what these people would think if they had a time machine and suddenly found themselves in this future. His present. Sure, there are robots that look after kids and do the housework, and sure, cars hover a few feet off the ground. But space is still a mystery. Houses are still poorly built. Government money is still being divvied unfairly. "They" talk about the need to evolve, to better ourselves from our animal relatives, but "they" are still doling out trillions of dollars to advance warmongering technology and the technology needed to control the masses. Xavier had once heard a statistic about how much it cost to develop "The Film" and to fit every newborn child on the planet with it. In the first year, the cost exceeded four trillion dollars. In the years to follow, the cost rose significantly. In school, he was taught about the good behind "The Film" and the curfew and obedience. He tried to endure school, but the lesson plans focused way too much on the now…on rules and numbers and so-called requirements to move forward and advance as a human being. As a race. True history was a side lesson of bullet points and short paragraphs, focusing mostly on the time just before "The Film" was introduced and the time just after. It was against the law to skip out on school, but it wasn't against the law to mentally check out of school. And that's what Xavier did on a regular basis...

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Making Vikings Envious

Remember 1993? Nah, me neither. Except for... wait... I remember liking a song called CREEP by a band called Radiohead. I wonder whatever happened to them. I also remember I wanted to be anywhere but the place I was in at the time.

I was living in a place called Abbotsford, an hour and a bit east of Vancouver. My disdain/respect for Abbotsford can be more closely examined in my "fictional" tale NEW FATHERS (available as a free download from HERE HERE and especially HERE). I had a few cool friends in Abbotsford and I was just learning about just how much trouble I could get into before I actually got arrested. But I was bored. And I wasn't happy. At 17 I wanted so much more. Not the selfish more: more video games, more money to waste down at the mall, more...

I wanted more of the outside world I knew existed, but seemed so far away from me. Even at my young age I felt like I was stuck, because Abbotsford was a big ol' bubble I just couldn't pop. Or didn't know how to pop, until I saw an ad in a local paper for the Rotary Youth Exchange program. Without a second thought, I applied to be an exchange student. Then I said a few clever things in my interview. Then surprisingly, I was accepted.

Hah! Those foolish Rotarians!

Having never really travelled anywhere far, other than Disneyland, I had a long list of countries I wanted to go to that were as far away (in distance and culture) from Abbotsford as I could get. Africa and Germany and Japan were on this list. What I didn't know was I didn't even have a choice as to where I would be sent. The sister club of the Rotary club I had applied to was in Finland. Finland. All I knew about Finland at the time was that Jari Kurri (of the Edmonton Oilers during their dynasty years) had come from there.

In late July 1993 I boarded a plane en-route to a small city in Finland called Pori. I didn't know then just how life altering the journey would be. Though Pori was the same size as Abbotsford (population and size-wise), it was nothing like my Canadian home. The people were mysterious. The language was impossible. And everything was invigorating, because it was so new and different. I learned to drink coffee and appreciate world music in Pori. And though Finland has no mountains, I learned how to snowboard. I could swear like a trucker in Finnish, but kids my age wanted to improve their English so badly, they never gave me a fighting chance to learn their language. But that was okay. I came to love Pori and Finland. And when I returned home a year later all I could think about was going back.

As it is with so many of our intentions in life, life always seems to get in the way. In my case, life kept me from leaving Canada for five long years.

I returned to Finland while backpacking around Europe in 1999, but I was a poor traveller at the time, having spent my year's worth of money the three months prior to arriving. I couldn't do much more than sleep on the couch I was offered, eat cheap meals of bread and cheese and entertain myself with NHL 99 on the PlayStation. It was more hanging out than visiting.

So when 2013 rolled around I began to think about how cool it would be to return to Finland and celebrate 20 years since first arriving. The only problem was I still had no money (a running theme in my life). 1993 passed and so to did my lifetime of money woes. I didn't win the lottery or anything, I just learned how to manage what little money I did make. And in no time I had squirreled away enough money to go back to Finland and do it properly.

But why constrict myself by going only to Finland?

Being part Danish, I thought it would be fun to go to Denmark as well. As luck would have it, my girlfriend also has friends in Denmark, where we were welcomed to stay as long as we wanted. With so much lodging offered up, we decided to go all out and make it a Scandinavian adventure. Finally, after six months of planning, on May 5th, 2014, I boarded a plane to Copenhagen, Denmark. Over the next two weeks my girlfriend and I visited Copenhagen, LEGOLAND in Billund (Denmark), Helsingborg (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Helsinki, Turku and finally Pori (in Finland).

It was the trip of a lifetime. I mean, we spent a whole day in LEGOLAND. Does it get any better than that?

In Pori I walked all the same streets I had walked as a cocky foreigner all those years ago. I met up with old friends who now had families and careers, but had changed very little in all other ways. I fell in love with the city and its inhabitants all over again.

And despite the jokes about making it a tradition I return every twenty years, I know I'll be back much sooner. Just looking through the pictures, I kind of want to be back there right now...


Copenhagen, Denmark

The unfinished pedestrian bridge in Copenhagen, Denmark

A taste of Eurovision 2014. This was the French band Twin Twin. Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark

Helsingør, Denmark
LEGOLAND front entrance. I was nine years old again.



Hoth in LEGOLAND. This was my favourite part of LEGOLAND. Of course!



Oslo, Norway

Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Oslo, Norway

Vigelandsparken, Oslo, Norway

On the roof of the Opera House in Oslo, Norway.

Admiring unique architecture in Oslo, Norway.


Helsingborg Castle. Helsingborg, Sweden

Helsingborg in miniature. Helsingborg, Sweden

Helsingborg, Sweden

Rain won't stop me. Helsingborg, Sweden

Helsingborg, Sweden


A band shooting a video in Helsinki, Finland.

Flower Festival in Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

The Sibelius Monument, Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

Our hostel (which is also an Olympic Stadium) in Helsinki, Finland.

Our hostel on an old cruise ship in Turku, Finland.

Turku, Finland

Turku, Finland

Turku, Finland

University students in Turku, Finland.

Annankatu 6, Pori, Finland. Where I used to act (and act out).

Everyone in Pori is in a band, or so it seems. Out for one of many gigs.

Pori, Finland

A day at the cabin in Pori, Finland.

Street art in Pori, Finland.

More art in Pori, Finland.

Pori, Finland