About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, will be published November 2018 by Immortal Works Press. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.

Interview with Irony Mitchell

Today’s author interview is brought to you by the mysterious and ever delightful Irony Mitchell, the letter Y, and a hot fudge sundae (because, why not?). While I know the secret identity of today’s guest, I’ve sworn a secret ice cream oath not to share. Let it be known that I’m a woman of my word.

Irony and I go back several years now, starting with my awkward childhood – no wait, that’s actual irony… Today’s guest and I go back several years and I’m thrilled to be able to get to know her alter ego better.

On to the interview!

We are thumbs up to go on this interview!
Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

First things first, a getting to know you question – What is the origin story of your unique name?

Thanks so much for interviewing me, I’m excited to virtually be here!

One of the most ironic things about this earth is that by going through all sorts of trials and enduring all sorts of wounds, we can come out stronger and better than we were before. To me, Irony is facing this soul-crushing world and finding hope, as well as the determination to smile and laugh your way through it. I don’t mean to sound flippant. When facing a personal apocalypse, I hope I can stare down the pain, square my shoulders, and boldly declare myself the victor. However, I also hope I’ll recognize the irony that is life and laugh my way to a happy ending.

What is your biggest dream and what are you doing to reach it?

How do you choose just one dream to the “biggest?” Writing wise, my biggest dream is to write something that touches someone’s life in some way. Whether that means they found an escape in reading my fiction or a connection with my non-fiction, I just want to be a source of positivity.

I think that’s why I am drawn to comedic writing. If I can put a smile or an eyeroll on your face, I’ve done my job.

Of all the different stories you’ve created, which one came from the weirdest idea, and what what it?

My Psychotic series came from not one, but two crazy ideas. First off, I wanted to write a story about a teenage girl who is the only one that can see the monsters that feed on her schoolmates. She sees invisible demons that are drawn to negative emotions, which are plentiful in her school.

Then, one day, I was having a conversation with someone about how intensely the smell of microwaved broccoli can hang on. At that moment, the tone of my psychotic series was born. I desperately wanted to write a story where I used the line “The monster hung on to me like the smell of microwaved broccoli, but I continued to fight.” So, I did. And now I make it a point to fill this series with as many crazy statements as I can. It’s one of the things I love most about these books.

If you could teach a new writer one thing, what would it be?

You will get rejections, from readers and agents alike, and that is OK. Even the most popular novels have haters, your book will be no different. Embrace the rejection and realize that it legitimizes you as an author. Getting to the point where people are able to judge your work means that you have made it through the trenches of un-finished novels. Congrats.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I was writing a story in college that I ended up turning in to a short film for one of my university projects. In the story, one of the main settings was a dance hall. I made a sign for the dance hall that never made it in to the film because I was just messing around with how I wanted the logo to look. I did it on a scrap piece of huge cardstock, so it wasn’t anything special. But, somehow that logo ended up on my wall for years and I’ve carried it around with me. It reminds me of the first story that really pulled me in to the world of writing. Sometimes I think about that novel and wonder if I should revisit it . . .

But, since I rarely write in my writing space and just write wherever I feel like it, maybe I should say a bowl of ice cream? Creamy sugar spurs my creativity.

What’s next? What are you working on?

The latest installment of the Psychotic series (Psychotic: Embarrassed) just published this last week, and now I am working on the next (Psychotic: Revenge). Chariot, my main character, sees invisible monsters that feed on negative emotions. To make things even more awkward, she has a mega-crush on a boy that can see invisible angels. But, she isn’t the only girl at her school that has fallen head over heels for this guy. When the other girl brings a revenge demon into the school, will Chariot back down from her mega-crush or will she take a stand?

About today’s guest, Irony Mitchell

Mitchell spends a great deal of time exploring mythical worlds, telling groan-worthy jokes, and playing with the family’s imaginary golden retriever. As a child, Mitchell won a contest by writing a story that started with the main character throwing up. As an adult, Mitchell’s ideas haven’t gotten any better.

Mitchell believes that there should never be a rom without the com, and that clean comedy is one of the highest forms of art available to the human race.

Connect with Irony (Yes, I totally giggled at that too!)

Check out Irony’s Psychotic series starting with Psychotic: Not all monsters can be seen, here’s the blurb:

Seeing monsters doesn’t make you psychotic, does it?

For 16-year-old Chariot, seeing monsters is just another part of her high school experience. Unfortunately, no one else can see these demons that thrive on her classmates. It’s up to Chariot to help fight off the monsters. But, when no one else can see them, will she be branded: Psychotic?

Find it on Amazon today!


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Power Word: Fearless

We’ve reached the end of the power word series and I saved the best for last. Today’s word is FEARLESS.

While many choose to define fearless as ‘being without fear,’ I define it differently. Being fearless means to acknowledge your fears and then go out and do the thing that’s perhaps a little scary. For me, it’s anything that might result in confrontation. Public speaking is one of those things. It’s scary and this year I’ve done it far more than I’ve ever done it before.

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

I’m an introvert by nature. Most assume the outgoing, somewhat loud side of me they see in public means that I’m super extroverted – it’s not true. The extroverted persona I wear at conferences is me grabbing the idea of being fearless and doing what needs to be done to best represent myself as an author. At conferences that means being brave and talking to strangers and presenting ideas in classes and panels.

If you’d asked me about this years ago, the idea of attending conferences with the intent to meet as many amazing people as possible and making myself seen, would have reduced me to a pile of anxiety ridden mush. It’s taken time, experience, and lots of watching my wonderful fellow author friends show how they handle being at a conference table, or behave on a panel, or teach a class.

The key to being fearless is developing confidence. Confidence comes from deep within and must be grown over time. It’s a personal understanding that you are a person of worth and have lots to share with the world. It’s also understanding that everyone around you deserves to be treated like they are also an interesting person and letting them shine.

Be fearless my friends!

For the complete list of power word posts, head over to Power Words of 2019.


Check it out! I’m doing something super brave and attending FanX officially as an author for the very first time this September. If you’re headed to FanX, I’d love to see you! Search the FanX site for my profile (or just click here) to see the most up-to-date listing of the panels I will be sitting on. You can also find me hanging around the Printed Garden vendor table.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

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Interview with Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Joining us today is one of my favorite indie press authors. Kathryn has taught at my local writing chapter meetings about the perks of being your own creative boss and also how to make the most of a small marketing budget. She’s made a name for herself in the Utah writing community and is amazingly friendly and generous with her time and talent.

On to the interview!

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Let’s kick things off with a getting to know you question. What are the three most unique things about you most people know, and one thing they don’t?

I love to read, take long walks on the beach, and enjoy interior decorating. One thing others may not know is that I just got hired on as a kindergarten teacher for American Preparatory Academy. I love children, but I never thought I’d be teaching. That goes to show you want a freelance writer can do at age 58!

How much of you ends up in your characters, are there certain traits that you tend to include?

That depends on the book. When I wrote “The Parables of Virginia Bean” – especially the first book in the series called, “Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones” much of my spiritual heart went into writing about the character. The journey she takes is much like my journey, and, from what I hear, many a reader relates to her story because it connects with their own.

Of the many books you’ve created, which one has been the most rewarding and why?

I have a new book coming out entitled, “Enlightened”. It’s a nonfiction book that speaks to scripture journaling and prayer. I have been on this particular journey for over 20 years and share my insights in connecting with God.

Tell us about your creative process. What does it take for you to create one of your books?

The creative process is always different. When I began “LightShade”, a science-fantasy for middle readers, it began as a prompt from my grandson. He wanted a ‘boy’ book, and previous to that time I’d only written the ‘girl’ variety. For this book, I had to do a little scientific research before beginning, and I found as I continued to write, that there were other opportunities to make the story real by doing even more research. I am usually a by the seat of my pants sort of writer or a “pantster”, but there are many times when I feel the need to research to make the plots I come up with plausible. With some research under my belt, I head forward, allowing the characters to sort of introduce themselves to me. I usually have a pretty good idea of the main character, but the others come as I write, sort of like a visit from new friends.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

The most interesting thing in my writing space is a cup with the words, “I Write, What’s Your Super Power?” We all have a superpower! It may be writing. And it might even be teaching kindergarten. I guess I’ll find out 😊

What’s next? What are you working on?

“Enlightened: My Personal Journey with Christ Through Scripture Journaling” will be released in September. The second book in The Space Adventures of Aaden Prescott series, “LightDescending”, will be out in the fall of this year. I also have a third book in the Brianne James Mystery series, “Slipped Up,” coming out next year. With my now extra busy schedule, these books should keep me ahead of the game until I get to another new book during the summer. Still wondering what that will be.

About today’s guest:

Kathryn is a lover of words and a bearer of mood swings. When she is feeling the need to inspire, she writes a Christian fiction book. If a mystery is waiting to be uncovered, she finds it. If something otherworldly is finding its way through her fingertips, she travels to it.

Kathryn has been a reader since she was a young child. Although she took classes in writing as a teen, it wasn’t something she really thought would become her career until she was married. And even then, it took a few more years for something worthy enough to publish to manifest itself.

Kathryn’s first book was published in 2002. Since then, many other books have found their way out of her head depending on the sort of day she is having. Kathryn is a journalist, a teacher, a mentor, an editor, a publisher, and a marketer.

Her greatest joy, other than writing her next book, is meeting with readers and authors who enjoy the craft of writing as much as she does.

Connect with Kathryn:

Did you know Kathryn can help you fulfill your dream of being published? If you’d like to know more, be sure to head over to her business website at: Ideacreationspress.com!

Excerpt from LightShade

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard E. Cohen

Beginning of the End

You’ll probably hate me but I don’t care. Most people on Earth hate me already, and if you’re reading this book you are one of the few who escaped. Wait, that can’t be right. I wrote this book long after the Earth was hit.

But I’m getting a head of myself.

It all started with the newscast. I don’t usually listen to the news, but there it was that day like fire. My Mom was making dinner and I was playing with Lego’s. If you remember how Lego’s used to be, you’ll be surprised that I heard anything, but that day, that day I’ll never forget, we were told the horrifying truth.

Mercury was on its way to Earth. Not to visit, if you get my drift, but to crash land. At first, I laughed it off, but then I remembered it wasn’t April Fool’s Day. It was August 1. It was hotter outside than the heater running, or fire lighting up a swimming pool.  If I told you I wasn’t scared, I’d be lying.

Mom hadn’t heard it. But I blinked at the projected flat screen in shock. Sure enough, the words repeated themselves. “Prepare yourselves” the man said. He had fake hair on the top of his head to look real and a frown on his face that was so wide I knew that if he could be tipped upside down, the smile I’d get would be as big as anyone would give if they’d received what they wanted for Christmas.

Except – this wasn’t Christmas. It felt like the stuff I’d learned in Sunday school about the Earth ending and the apocalypse. Except, it wasn’t that, was it?

I dropped the Lego I was holding. It was green. I still remember the color because of what happened afterwards. If you don’t believe in little green men, you should.  And you should believe in UFOs, patches in the grass in the shape of circles, and the movie ET.

But I’m forgetting already.

My Mom looked at me in shock. “What?” she asked, even though I’d told her the truth as calmly as possible. My hands were shaking, but I hid them in my jean pockets so she wouldn’t know the complete truth.

Some things are better for a mom not to know.

So, I told her again.

She laughed.

I got mad.

She laughed harder. And then she looked into my eyes. Really looked, you know the way moms do when they think their boy has messed up or told a lie to their brother. I don’t have a brother, but I know these things.

She said, “Really, Aaden.”

I’d been told about my ‘imagination’ since the time I knew what people were saying. And I knew something else; something so terrible, that, up until that night and the newscast, I thought was the most horrifying thing I would ever hear.

“Aaden… really. What fire are you going to start now?”

I’d been told about the meaning of my name for years, and now that I was ten, I was beyond tired of hearing it. I suppose you want to know what it means, as if you really care, but maybe it will be of some interest to you after you hear what the newscaster told us next. For, after I got Mom to leave the kitchen and come into the living room – which took some effort I can tell you – she stood with her mouth open, as if I’d told her I was going to leave home or something.

But then again, we were all going to have to leave home – and soon – or we’d be scorched.

So, here it is. Two years ago, when I was bored and really had to know the truth for myself, I went to Mom’s computer, and put in the spoken password I wasn’t supposed to know.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. “Someone like fire,” the computer said.

I looked into my Mom’s eyes now, and the television was still blaring the news of Mercury. We had only two weeks to find safety.

Find this and all of Kathryn’s books on Amazon.

Do you love audiobooks? Kathryn has tons of them! Go find out more on Audible.


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

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Exploring the Five Orders: Benders

The fifth and final order we will explore in this series is the order of Benders. In every society, including magical ones, there need to be the makers. The Benders fill this role within the Stonebearer Society by creating and adapting items both magical and non-magical.

Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

Magic users who end up being Benders tend to be a little strange. Part of this stems from the intense focus required to manipulate items on such a detailed level. The other part is that this talent can also disrupt mental pathways, which makes it a potentially scarier power to use.

Bending in its simplest form means altering the shape of an object. A really bad example of this would be to change a spoon into a fork by shifting the existing material.

The next level of complexity is the ability to instill magical glyphs and symbols into objects containing motherstone to create charms and rods capable of performing difficult tasks. One example of this is the traveling post system that helps Stonebearers move through the world quickly.

More advanced Benders can change the nature of an object. As long as the right components are present, a Bender can change one thing into something else. They’ve been known to change coal to diamond, and pull gold from ore to help fund missions and pay those who aid the tower.

One practice is forbidden to Benders and that’s altering another’s mind. A master Bender with extreme skill can change memories, compel someone to perform a task, and manipulate emotions. This is the most complex application of the Bender’s skill and not all are capable of it.

The most notable Bender in Stonebearer’s Betrayal is Wrothe’s henchman, Surasio. His goal is to gain power and prestige by aligning himself with powerful forces and using his skills to make himself indispensable. However, his integrity and morals have been corrupted by a long life of hard experiences. He is easily swayed by those seeking to gain power through unscrupulous means.

Remember the smelly little dude on the Mummy (the good one, with Brendan Fraser)? Yeah, he’s totally Surasio.

If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, head over to the intro post which discusses all five and how they relate to each other.


If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

***

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Interview with Scott E. Tarbet

One of the first friends I made in the writing and authoring world was Scott E. Tarbet. He and I were both in the Toll of Another Bell fantasy anthology through Xchyler Publishing and both local Utah authors – and we were also in the same chapter of League of Utah Writers for several years. So it goes without saying that we go back a while.

I was thrilled when Scott agreed to an interview because I know he’s led quite the interesting life. From adventuring abroad, to creating gripping stories, Scott’s got a little of everything.

On to the interview!

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

The best place to start is a question to get to know you better. Tell us a little about yourself, including the craziest thing you’ve ever done on a dare.

I have bombed straight down icy double black diamonds, free-climbed vertical cliffs, free-dived to fifty feet to take a ten-pound lobster away from a moray eel. I have charged into burning buildings and torn apart burning vehicles, run marathons, survived being marooned on a deserted seacoast. I have peered down into the glowing containment pool of a nuclear generating station and been stranded without light deep in a limestone cave rapidly filling with water. I have been attacked and robbed at gunpoint, faced down assault weapon wielding Mexican Federales while armed with nothing but righteous zeal and the chutzpa of youth. I have launched three businesses and have failed at two. AND I have published my literary offspring out into the cold, cruel world. In short, I don’t wait for someone to challenge me to perpetrate a craziness. I just do it.

As a creative person, what are your three greatest strengths?

  1. Fearlessness. (See above.)
  2. Craft. I have always been a storyteller, since before I could read or write. I love to read and re-read the literary masters and masterpieces, in every storytelling genre, taking careful note of how they make their stories come alive. In short, I am a student of the craft. Someday I hope to achieve mastery. If I write out every novel in my current writer’s notebook, I should accomplish that sometime before I’m a hundred and twenty.
  3. Love. My characters are my children and my friends. I truly believe no artist can adequately represent something they do not understand at a profound, granular level. Those who try are instantly revealed as frauds to the discerning reader or viewer. And that understanding usually shines through as unmistakable love. Or its polar opposite.

Of all the different projects you’ve worked on, either with the opera, writing, or one of your other many interesting pursuits, what experience has changed you the most?

No other experience has shaken me as profoundly as standing onstage as Otto Frank, father of Ann, at the opening of “The Diary of Ann Frank.” A representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center had just finished an hour-long multi-media presentation on the Holocaust. The images of the death camps were so burned into my soul that I had a difficult time even drawing breath.

At the opening curtain, Otto reenters the family’s attic grotto hiding place after surviving the Nazi death camps and the extermination of his family and friends. As he enters the empty stage a bell slowly tolls six times, once for each of the million Jews killed in the Holocaust. I felt each toll pound through my own brain as if I were being struck a felling blow. I, and a good share of the audience, wept like heartbroken children as the seconds stretched into minutes. I hope never to be so affected again by another piece of art.

In your most recent novel release, Dragon Moon, who was your favorite character and what part of writing it was your biggest challenge?

Dragon Moon was a high concept: the U.S. abandoning the capability to reach the moon and Communist China publicly announcing their intention to turn it into a military base can only turn out badly, right? I believed in the premise. I still believe in it. It’s happening before our eyes.

Bringing that story to life meant creating two main characters that I truly loved, into whom I poured every good impulse that I could imagine. One was a reluctant Chinese-American Air Force intelligence officer, Mu Guiying, manipulated into a world of violence and intrigue she never wanted. The other was a star-gazing teenage boy, Mason Young, obsessed with saving the world by finding and stopping the next extinction-level asteroid. Together they represent so much of the ideal for me that I dedicated the novel “To those who look up and out, and to those who guard their backs while they do it.”

The biggest challenge of writing the book was being humble enough to give up a character whom I really loved to despise, who was Mason’s girlfriend in the first draft. She was deliciously self-centered and snarky in a delightfully Mean Girls sort of way, but my editor pointed out that she was taking up a lot of word count that more rightly went into developing the other threads of the story. But she’ll always have a special place in my “characters I love to hate” pantheon.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

My great-grandfather Enoch Cornia’s missionary hymnal, no bigger than the palm of my hand, dated from his mission in 1891. It really should be in a shadow box. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll do that next . . . month . . . maybe . . .

What’s next? What are you working on?

I always work on multiples at the same time. I literally have three documents open at any given time. If I start to slow down on one, meaning that I have to give it some more thought before proceeding, I switch to another. While I dump out the stuff that is already thought through in another piece, the first one marinades. Then I jump back to it. I’m actually more productive doing it that way rather than staring at the screen while my brain chews like a puppy with a new slipper.

So the next things are:

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk 2: Perils of Pauline. The genius young artificer heroine of the first book is after her new replacement legs, but a meddlesome time traveler has other ideas of where—and when—she should go next. Changing history once is not enough.
  2. Battles of the Stripling Warriors. The iconic young warriors, the Sons of Helaman from the Book of Mormon, return in the second in the series that began with Rise of the Stripling Warriors, which I hope against hope will get out of editing and onto the shelves before the end of 2019.
  3. The Thousand. (working title) A self-aware .2c starship is on a mission thousands of years in duration, to reach thirteen new worlds and choose the right candidates from among the 1,000 best and brightest minds, the cream of humanity that were digitally stored when the race was extinguished. Brigham, the ship’s cantankerous AI, will print them strong young bodies, implant their memories, seed the new colony, and move on. But as Brigham approaches the thirteenth and final planet, s/he has made a discovery that will change the mission, and the fate of the human race, forever.
From great books to amazing Texas style BBQ, Scott Tarbet really can do it all.

About today’s guest –

Scott Tarbet’s speculative fiction stories have garnered multiple awards, critical acclaim, and entertain a burgeoning fanbase. He writes in several genres, including Steampunk, fantasy, paranormal, techno-thriller, and historical fiction.

When he is not submerged in one of his created worlds, which he finds nearly as fascinating as the real one, he sings opera professionally and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of authentic Texas-style barbeque. He was married in full Elizabethan regalia, loves Steampunk and cosplay conventions of all flavors. He makes his home in the mountains of Utah.

Follow his writing adventures:

About Scott’s book Dragon Moon –

A new space race explodes into violence when China quietly sets its sights on the Moon. Now, an unlikely team of US Navy SEALs, Russian Spetsnaz, and a Chinese-American agent have one chance to stop the activation of China’s powerful new weapon before all hope is lost. The cost of failure: worldwide Chinese empire.

Find it on Amazon!


Thank you dear reader for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

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Book Review: When We Were Very Young, by A. A. Milne

In honor of the passing of Toni Morrison, I felt it appropriate to pay her tribute by reviewing a book of poetry that has been influential to many. I know it’s not one of hers, to lend my uneducated opinion on her poetry feels like a disservice. Her writing is evocative and deep and would require more time than I have to really dig deep and give it the attention it deserves. Instead, I chose something recently recommended to me.

I asked Candace, my fellow author buddy, what her favorite book was and she told me When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne, I had to pick it up and give it a go. It’s a little thing, easily enjoyed in an hour or two. I read poem at a time while waiting at orthodontic appointments and cowering in the shade while hanging out with my kids at parks.

It really is a lovely collection of ideas drawing the reader back to a simpler time when a kitchen chair was a cage for a lion and a tubby bellied bear felt bad about his roundness until he met a handsome and equally tubby prince.

I also loved the freedom of using words for their rhythm and repetition and not being tied down to grammatical standards. After writing prose for so long, it’s a nice change to see it done differently. A. A. Milne does a wonderful job using repetition to create a sing-song quality to his verses which would make it fun to read these aloud to children.

I’m told this is the first appearance of Winnie the Pooh’s character, although at this point he is only referred to as the tubby bear. Christopher Robin pokes his head in as well. The first Winnie the Pooh book wasn’t published until two years after this book had been out.

For me, I’ve been working on developing more lyricism in my prose. One of the things that can help is reading more poetry and piecing together the parts that draw my attention. I think I’ll be playing with a few new ideas this week. I’m looking forward to it.

Perhaps I should find another poetry book…

If you enjoy simple lovely poetry, you’ll enjoy When We Were Very Young. If you’ve been meaning to read more poetry and don’t know where to start, or don’t like complicated themes, this is a good pick for you as well.

However, if you were hoping for profound truths about life the world and everything and want the poem itself to do the heavy lifting, these won’t do that. That is, unless you choose to apply lots of your own logic and theories, then perhaps they will. I won’t judge.


Psst! Jodi here. Did you enjoy today’s review? Did it help you decide if this book was for you? Cool, eh?

Guess what? You can do the same for me. If you’ve read Stonebearer’s Betrayal, head on over to Amazon, Goodreads, or the book site of your choice and leave me a review.

It doesn’t have to be big and long like this one – a few sentences is perfect! Thanks in advance!

“A Love Letter to the Creative Process” by Tara C. Allred

Back at the beginning of summer I attended a fun library kick off program put on by the wonderful people of the Tremonton Library. Tremonton is a small town with a huge heart and it shows in the kindness and friendship of the families who came to enjoy the event. Tara and I shared an author signing table where we chatted and shared our writing journeys with each other.

We had such a great time that I knew she would be a wonderful choice to share something with the readers here on my blog.

Enjoy!

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A Love Letter to the Creative Process

When Jodi invited me to be a guest on her site, she suggested some options, like sharing an article about creativity, and then she added, “Like a love letter to the creative process.” That phrase grabbed me. I jotted it down and whether Jodi meant for me to take the phrase literally or not, in the end I did. This is my love letter to the creative process. Thanks, Jodi, for this perspective. I enjoyed connecting with my writing in this way.

Dear Muse,

I’ve been away for a bit, but I miss you. A lot.

You’ve been a friend.

At times a very good friend, at other times a nuisance, but beloved friend.

In our younger days, you would wake me in my sleep. 4 am. 3 am. 2 am. Whatever it took. Beckoning me to flip on a desk lamp, grab a notepad or fire up the laptop, and let the words pour out as fast as they could fly. Special early mornings, tender late nights, just you and me, pouring over words, finding magic swirling around us, dancing with us, seeping into a reality that belonged in another time and place but had invited us in. Together, we heard the protagonist speak, the conflict grow, the setting materialize. Characters exposed motives. Story took on movement. Action unfolded.

My little office space, or dining room table, or soft sofa radiated with life. Rich purpose swirled around me. Carols of eager joy pulsed through my veins. I miss that. I miss you.

From age five, when I learned that books came from people, I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to be first in line when you were ready to share a story. I wanted to hear it first, watch its plot unfold around me, taste the life of characters, of this other realm through you.

You indulged me. By fifth grade, when my child-authored book bulked out in pages, refusing to be restrained by the comb binding that the other students’ dozen pages fit so nicely within, others saw the passion inside me too. I told them I would be an author someday. They believed me. You believed me. You granted me courage to fight the fight to do this. To work, hard, harder than my youthful wishes understood.

I fought, I worked, I learned, I lost, I found, I rejoiced, I sorrowed, I won, I published. I found readers, I found a voice, I found purpose swirling furiously within me. With a deep hunger, I wanted to share with others the wonders from you and your stories.

Dear Muse, where did it go? Life came. Responsibilities. Other jobs. Competing professions. Success in other ways. Better financial rewards. Other purpose. Other rewards. Reality. Harsh. Cruel. Critics. Disappointment. A changing industry. No longer fun. Losing the passion. Losing me.

How do we reunite again?

Do you find me? Do you call me up again in the middle of the night and see if I will come play again?

Do I find you? Do I pound at the keyboard, over and over again, searching for you in the words, trying to see where your shadow might be?

And if we find each other again, will the magic return? Like first love, the youthful innocence that turns the passion into an addiction? Where I think of you ever waking moment? Where I hunger to be with you again?

Or, is it now mature love? More of a tempered wisdom, a comfortable friend, one who knows me so well, and I too have come to better understand you? Where we can be together, and know how the day will go. The highs, the lows, my weaknesses, our combined limitations. Yet, there would also be our love. Our deepening love, an acceptance of continuous change, of growth, of becoming.

Could we unite again? Embark on a journey together once more? If I left my fears of a final destination, and turned my focus on the present moments of creating, would you come?

I want those moments again. When in the stillness of the world around me, you allow me to see and pen a scene that is untouched by another. Those initial gasps of wonder. The first awe of beauty. A moment with you, when I see something so remarkable about human nature to be shared in a way that only fiction provides. Then eagerness comes, followed by anticipation. The hope burning inside me of a reader someday, curled up in bed, or on the couch, or during a paused moment of a vacation, and we will connect. That breathless moment when fiction speaks to a soul, when reader, writer, and you, connect together. A touch with humanity.

I want that moment again!

In its purest form. In all it’s beauty. Without the thorns of the world, just you, me, and a reader, together again, learning together, rejoicing together, crying together, loving together, being better people together.

It’s time to find you again, dear friend.

I look forward to our reunion.

Much deep appreciation and love,

Tara

About today’s featured guest:

TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey Awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.

Her published works include Sanders’ Starfish, UnAuthored Letters, Helping Helper and The Other Side of Quiet, a Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner. 

Connect with Tara:

Special offer!

Sign up for Tara C. Allred’s newsletter and receive SANDERS’ STARFISH, the first book in the John Sanders series for free. Then follow it up with the award-winning UNAUTHORED LETTERS, the second book in the series.

About Sanders’ Starfish:

Dr. John Sanders is about to begin his career as a clinical psychologist. Full of optimism, he believes he can make a difference and is eager to provide hope to a group the world has deemed hopeless. Yet in John’s quest to offer those in his care a second chance, he embarks on his own journey of self-discovery. In his search, clear answers become scrambled confusion while the unimaginable truth is trapped in a complex web.

About UnAuthored Letters:

“Allred shows excellent insight into the psychological interactions of her characters in this gripping mystery of greed and redemption.” – ForeWord Clarion Reviews

Dr. John Sanders has given Rebecca Brownell a new chance at life. After an isolated childhood, an abused adolescence, and an institutionalized existence, Rebecca is finally free to conquer her demons and build a promising life.

However, just as it appears Rebecca has achieved her dreams, eerily personal letters begin arriving in the mail. Letters sent from an unidentified source who knows far more about her past than anyone should. Letters which question and threaten Rebecca’s sanity.

UnAuthored Letters is the inspiring tale of a woman’s troubled past, a man’s quest to protect her, and their fight against a mysterious foe. It’s a story of trust strained by illness, love tried by lies, and promises terrorized by illusive danger.

Winner of the Howeys 2014 Best Adult Book & 2014 Best Adult Author
Winner of The Blot Writing Contest


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Interview with Aaron Cance

Sometimes happy accidents are the best ones. I needed a friendly bookstore that would help me with an author event. Having a small hoard of authors to ask opinions from, the overwhelming reply was that I had to get to know today’s guest, Aaron Cance, owner of the Printed Garden in Sandy, and all around awesome guy.

In fact, Aaron and I got on so well, I held my book release party in his store and we’ve buddied up at various events ever since.

I’d love to introduce all my lovely readers to him. On to the interview!

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

First things first, let’s start with a getting to know you question. Share a bit about yourself, including the two things you’d bring to a deserted island.

The easiest way to answer this will be to tie the two parts of the question together. With the exception of about fifteen years of my life that I was lucky to get out of alive, I’ve mostly been pretty introverted so I would probably take a couple books along with me.  They would have to be books that I’d want to spend a whole lot of time with. One would be my Holy Bible and the other would have to be something like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man or Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.  Books that defy a single read and must be reread and reread and untangled over time.

Those who know you, know of your passion for books and supporting local authors. What was the defining moment when you decided to own your own bookstore? 

Most of my life has revolved around books and reading.  Even when I was very young, we didn’t have very much money and not a whole lot of furniture, but there were always books in the house.  Outside of school, I started with a healthy addiction to comic books that transitioned right into the limited pool of young adult books that were available in the 1970s and then right into science fiction and horror.  Then a period of not reading very much for a while.  Simply put, after a while I realized that my life had some empty corners, that something really satisfying and meaningful was missing.  I eventually realized that it was the pleasure that I took from reading so pledged to start building a library for myself.

Then school.  That sense of something missing led to the realization that if I didn’t want to work on factory floors or in distribution centers my entire life, that I’d better go back to college.  I could chase a degree that would allow me to read for occupation, as well as for pleasure in the evenings.  This also led to my first bookstore job in 1996, and I’ve never done any other type of work since.  After working for Crossroad Books in Wisconsin, I started my own online business brokering the sale of rare and signed books, and did pretty well with that.  Eventually we moved to Utah for graduate school and I worked for Barnes and Noble, Ken Sanders Rare Books, and The King’s English.  I think it was at The King’s English that the seed to open my own shop germinated.  I was trying, for quite a while, to work my way into a management position there but hit a certain point where I realized that it wasn’t going to happen, so started plotting my own store, which was the logical alternative.

Of all the books you’ve encountered, what’s the one that impacted you the most?

I can probably trace different formative events in my life back to books.  I think the one that had the single most profound impact on me, an impact that has lasted to this very day, was Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  I wont try to unpack all the reasons that Ellison had for writing it here, but it affected me on a number of different levels.  First and foremost, it’s a novel about the voyage of self-discovery.  I think a lot of people are not happy in life because they’re either not happy with who they are or they don’t know who they are or want to be.  Invisible Man plumbs the depths of these questions pretty seriously, including going so far as to consider what your place in and relationship to history is or will be.  It was a novel about black identity, but is, in the most basic sense, just a novel about identity in general.  On a mechanical level, it had a profound influence on the way I both appreciate writing and on how I write myself.  Ellison was a master word-smith.  It’s not an easy book, but I honestly think that anyone who’s serious about writing (in any genre) would do themselves an enormous service by working through Invisible Man.  Ellison was concerned with his narrative, but also with the way that words sounded together on the page, the way the worked together, the musicality and rhythm of language.  He was making music – but he was doing it with the written word.

Many might not know this about you, but you’re also working on writing a book. What can you tell us about it?

Right now, I’m finishing up what I think will be the last round of revision work on my second novel.  I’m pretty excited about it because my first took just over ten years and I think that it’s pretty much unpublishable.  I’m really proud of it, but having been in the book industry as long as I have, don’t really know that there’s a market for it.  The one that I’m finishing up now is much more straightforward, and just a terrific story with, i feel, really strong commercial potential.  As soon as I put the finishing touches on it, I’ll be looking about for an agent for it.  I have a couple leads, but those can come and go pretty quickly, so I’m probably looking at about another 6 months of finding a good agent.  If nothing happens with it within a year’s time of what I’d consider it’s completion, I’ll probably publish and market it myself because that a considerably more viable means of publication today than it ever has been before.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a cop-out answer, but my answer to this would be music.  I don’t really have sculptures, posters, luck-items, or anything like that around when I’m writing.  Like other writers, I’m heavily influenced by other writers, but don’t really have an inspirational object at my desk.  What I do use, however, is music.  Most every word I’ve ever written, whether part of one of the two novels, a short story, a poem, or an essay, was written to music.  In the back of my head I want my prose to play like music.  Not in a campy ‘it’s perfect as a song’ type of way, but I want it to have emotional impact, and rhythm and tone.  I always write to music that is similar in tone and emotional impact to the work on the screen in front of me.  It helps keep me in the game.

What’s next? What are you working on?

Right now I’m working on a short piece of horror fiction called “A Man of the Cloth.”  It’s  a three tiered short story in which my main character has three terrifying life experiences that come to be interconnected and exist structurally in the story like a Russian nesting doll.  I’ve also put down 6,000 words of a realistic fiction that’s written for a YA audience.  In a market that’s still hungry for YA fantasy and science fiction, I’m not really sure what’ll happen with this story, but it’s the next story that wants to come out.  So I’ll write it now and figure out what to do with it later.

Meet Aaron, the friendliest bookstore owner I know!

About today’s guest:

Aaron Cance holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and a M.A. in British and American Literature from the University of Utah.  His essays and reviews have appeared in Fiction Writers Review and 15 Bytes: A Utah Arts Journal, and a few of his poems have been published by Southern Minnesota State University’s Bare Root Review.  Some of his  poetry was collected for the chap book Nocturnal.  He has been selling books to people since 1996 and is the owner of The Printed Garden, Booksellers in Sandy’s historic Union Square.  He lives in Holladay with his wife, daughter, and two very eccentric cats.

Connect with Aaron:


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Amazing Woman: Desdemona Stott Beeson

In Utah, the 24th of July marks a time of celebrating the state’s unique history. Which means, it’s a perfect week to celebrate one of Utah’s most interesting women, Desdemona Stott Beeson.

photo courtesy of Utah State Historical Society

Desdemona was born in Eureka, one of Utah’s many silver mining towns, in 1897. During a time when men’s and women’s roles were very polarized, Desdemona wanted nothing more than to be a part of the mining industry, and not just as a cook or boardinghouse keeper, as most women around the mining industry tended to be, no sir. She wanted to explore the mines themselves and see the veins of silver.

Panorama of the Tintic District at EurekaJuab County, Utah.

Growing up in a mining town, most of her male relatives were involved in silver mining. She would tag along with them whenever she could, riding mine elevators deep down into the earth and watching the men hammer away.

After high school, she wanted to study engineering and geology at the University of Utah. Remember, this was around 1916. Her parents managed to talk her out of it and she ended up studying the less male dominated degree of psychology. When she graduated, she moved to another silver mining town, Alta, where she met her husband – the Stanford-educated Joseph Beeson. Soon after their marriage they discovered a large ore body in the Emma Mine and together they managed the mine until it went bankrupt.

The outbreak of the First World War meant opportunity. Joseph went to Europe as an engineer and Desdemona made her way to Stanford to finally pursue her studies in engineering and geology. It was an uphill battle to maintain respect among the faculty and staff and thankfully she was up for the fight.

Mine Shaft Bldg From W. – Silver King Mining Company, Mineshaft & Main Hoist, Woodside Gulch, Park City, Summit County, Utah

With her credentials securely tucked under her belt she proceeded to join her husband to manage an independent mining venture in Bingham, Utah. When Joseph was away on geologic consulting, she managed the day to day operations of the mine, including correcting and firing men who couldn’t use safe and proper procedures.

Throughout her life she traveled with her family from mine to mine, facing discrimination to do the thing she loved, and doing it anyway.

From my back porch I can see the terraced hills of the famous Kennecott Copper Mine in Bingham Canyon and am thrilled that a woman full of grit and determination made a difference in Utah’s mining history.

Resources


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