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.

My Winter Self-Care

There is this weird stigma when it comes to the idea of self-care. For most people, the very words summon up visions of eating chocolate, taking bubble baths, and indulging in activities seen as vain and selfish. This viewpoint needs to change. What self-care really means is to do the things that are necessary to lead a happy and productive life.

Everyone’s needs are different. Like me, some people have trouble sleeping at night. Some people might suffer from a lack of energy, especially in the afternoons. Some people might fight cravings for junk food and sweets constantly. Some people might suffer from depression which makes it almost impossible to do everyday tasks. My point is, your needs will not look like everyone else’s needs.

What works wonders for one person might actually make your situation worse. Personally, I find my self-care needs become far more time consuming in the winter than in the summer. The moment the days start getting darker, my energy begins to flag, my anxiety increases, and sleep issues become a more persistent problem. The drive to complete all the things on my various to do lists is just not there.

In the clinical world, this is referred to as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD). You are literally affected by the change in the seasons. It’s mother nature’s way of getting a final jab in before hibernating for the long winter. She’s still irritated at the invention of the light bulb.

Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

My self-care routine

Part of my winter self care routine this year stems from the tiny midlife crisis that kicked off a few weeks ago when I turned 40. All of the sudden getting in regular exercise and eating my vegetables seemed so much more important. This is the only body I’m going to get, if I’m not maintaining it in such a way that it runs well for me, then I’m setting myself up for a massive breakdown in the future. Something similar happened when I turned 30 and I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life other than be a mom, I would need to start doing it.

Starting in early October, I pull out my happy light and use it in the morning while I’m working at my desk. It helps wake me up and simulates the natural sunlight I would have experienced in the summer and makes my brain generate more serotonin during the day and melatonin at night. I also get far more diligent at taking my vitamins. Currently I take a general multivitamin, calcium citrate, B-complex, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin D. All of these are necessary in maintaining healthy brain chemicals and aid in better energy production.

I also aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Some of it is while watching Netflix and using an elliptical, or if the weather is nice, going out for a walk. On alternating days I turn on Yoga with Adriene on YouTube. If you are looking for a darling down-to-earth yoga practitioner who excels at making yoga accessible to anyone, check her out.

The other two things I do are regular journaling and meditation. Journaling helps me to analyze things that I would like to find solutions to, while meditation helps calm down the brain chatter and helps me focus on the things that are important and need doing. After exercise, these two practices do more to help me counteract daily stress than anything else.

Does this mean everything in my life is perfect right now? No, it really isn’t. But when I’m diligent at keeping up my self-care, my tools to handle problems are kept sharp and well maintained.

Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

A question…

What do you do for self-care? I would love to hear about activities and practices you’ve put in place to help you feel better about yourself.


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The Dragon Prince, Season 3

I solemnly swear to not post spoilers, which makes writing about a third season of any show complicated. I hope you appreciate the verbal gymnastics required to do this dear reader, because when I woke up this morning, I swear my head wasn’t screwed on correctly. I’ve had perma-fog of the brain all morning.

Being super heroic is just the beginning

The story so far…

As we left season two, Ezran, upon learning of his father’s death, makes the difficult decision to return to Katolis and assume the duties as king. Callum and Rayla continue in their quest to take adorable baby dragon Zym back to his mother in the magical land of Xadia only to encounter the ancient dragon Sol Regem blocking their path. Viren, who has been consorting with the mysterious elf Aaravos, uses his dark magic to scare the other kingdoms into forming an alliance with him to go to war against Xadia and finally rid the world of the hatred and evils he believes are found there.

Up to this point, both sides of the world feel wronged by the other. The world of the elves is furious with that of the humans because they killed the ruling dragon king and supposedly destroyed the egg that was to be his heir. The human world is furious with the elves world because they are a threat that isn’t fully understand.

Entering season three there were lots of expectations, some of which were met, and several that will be left for a future season. Perhaps the biggest question was if Zym would be reunited with his mother, and what that would change in the world.

If Zym, the dragon prince, is reunited with his mother, the queen dragon of Xadia, it should resolve in part the largest complaint that the elves have against the humans. Part of my expectation going into season three was to see some of this happen. However, this is the primary conflict on which the entire show rests, solve it and the show would have to end or risk dwindling on into irrelevance.

These two are so cute together. Best brothers ever.

Season Three thoughts

In season three, there were several good steps toward a greater understanding between elves and humans. It had to happen, as both people and elves are starting to rally to a cause greater than just basic anger and hatred. The conflict is now elevating to a greater fight between good and evil and the stakes are getting higher.

How’s that for being vague? Yeah, I promised no serious spoilers. I meant it.

There is also several new and fascinating settings introduced in season three that I thought were awesome. We get to see Rayla’s village and the magic there, a black desert, and the home of the dragon queen, all of which have their own special traits and points of interest that made the world builder in me squee a little.

As the story continues, the relationships between characters continues to change and grow. Some of this earned an eye roll from me, any problem that is solved by the power of love tends to do that. But, I can’t watch Hallmark movies either, so that’s a personal failing on my part. The rest of you might find it charming. There are several surprises here as well between characters where I never thought the dynamic would change.

Did Zym get reunited with his mom? You better go watch it.

All in all, season three is filled with great storytelling with just enough tidbits of well-timed backstory to make the new conflicts not only hugely entertaining, but powerful as well.

Really Claudia? Put the adoraburr down!

Recommendations

For those of you who love a story with a deep history, complex characters, and beautiful art, Dragon Prince is a perfect choice. It continues to amaze and delight my whole family. I’m personally impressed at the effort taken to ensure that every detail of the story is well thought out and calculated for maximum emotional payout. It’s totally my kind of story.

I would warn viewers that while on the outside this show just looks like any other cartoon, it’s actually pretty complicated. Some people might be turned off at the learning curve required to understand what is going on and what the stakes are. The first few episodes of season one are slower because of the time spent catching the viewer up on the history of the world and its characters and why that matters.

After Rayla, General Amaya is the coolest character ever.

A request

If you have a show or movie that you’d think I’d love to watch and review, let me know in the comments! I love finding new wonderful universes to explore.

Are you watching Dragon Prince? What are your thoughts so far?


Psst, Jodi here – Big news!

The re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal is well under way and scheduled for the first week in January, with the exciting sequel set to release in March. Stay tuned for a fresh new cover reveal and more!


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Winner! NaNoWriMo 2019

At beginning of this week I figured if I averaged 3300 words a day, I could finish my NaNoWriMo project on Wednesday, leaving the rest of the weekend to celebrate Thanksgiving. That averages to around three hours of intensely focused writing a day with no distractions. Lucky for me, two of those days the kiddos were in school and the third they slept in a few hours.

I’m proud to day that with lots of grit and determination (and an unhealthy amount of leftover Halloween candy) I slammed dunked my way to the finish before lunch on Wednesday. There’s nothing quite like typing the words “The End.”

Wow. While I’ve done the challenge for several years now, this is the first time I’ve finished an entire draft of a project with the intention of publishing it later this year. Just thinking about it is both exhilarating and terrifying. What if the story I came up with is actually really stupid and I haven’t realized it yet? What happens then? Was this entire month of work a waste? I guess I’ll find out soon enough when I read it in a few weeks.

Writing Isben’s story was challenging. I was confined to use and stay faithful to the already existing confines of the Stonebearer universe, including what point he needed to reach at the end of the story. While part of this meant a lot of thoughtful review of how that might limit the possibilities, it also meant I had some guidelines to follow – a perk I’d not had before.

The story starts on the day Isben discovers that he possesses the power of the Khandashii and follows his struggle for survival each day after until he reaches the tower of Amul Dun and safety. One of the characters he meets along the way is now my new favorite character, after Bremin of course. The more he showed himself to me, the more I liked him. Sven the bard has some delightful surprises up his sleeves and in his amazing wagon.

Vision board for Isben’s story

Should everything go to plan, Isben’s story will be coming to Amazon March 2020.

For the next two weeks, I will be taking a small break from the intensity of NaNo and will spend my time reading a few amazing books to recharge my batteries, possibly writing a short story or two, and catching up on the dozens of things that I allowed to slip through the cracks as well as what needs to be done to prepare for the re-release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal in early January.

Stay tuned, there are a lot of awesome things in the works!


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The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Growing up a nerd in the 80s was a unique experience. Of everything weird and wonderful, there were two movies that stood out and still tickle my imagination every time I see any related artwork. Those two movies were Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

I’m sure you’re all suitably shocked.

When they announced they were taking the rest of the Dark Crystal story and making a Netflix series, I was both excited and concerned. The art of the original movie is what captured it’s fans, and not necessarily the story. In fact, while I loved the art and the mystic other-worldliness of the original film, I never paid any attention to the story until I became an author. How were they going to recapture that magic and balance it out with such a complicated story?

The verdict – with amazing artistic talent and skill. The Age of Resistance is exactly what it needs to be for those who loved the art of the original movie. The producers resisted the temptation to use CGI and opted for traditional puppeting, a decision that was both more costly and challenging, and it resulted in a series that looked and felt as if it stepped out of the original movie.

My other concern was how were they going to stretch the source material into ten hours of film? This is where many new comers to the franchise might start losing interest. Because the world of the Dark Crystal, Thra, is complicated with lots of different cultures and influences, both from within the seven distinct populations of gelflings, and also from the alien Skeksis who have taken up the responsibility of ruling the world, there are parts of the series that have to slow down and explain all of this.

No amount of amazing sets and beautiful creatures can make up for the material being slow and boring at times. I didn’t mind, because I enjoy deep worldbuilding and love examining examples of when it’s been done well. For everyone else, the pace of several episodes is slower than what a standard viewer is used to.

I finished watching the series earlier this week and was very impressed at how good it all turned out to be. For me, it’s a lovely reminder of that magical world that captured my imagination as a child.

Also, the music is incredible. I pulled up the soundtrack to listen to as I worked the other day and was swept away. Managed to write 20% faster than usual to boot!

Recommendations:

I recommend The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance to anyone who liked the original Dark Crystal, or who has a love for epic fantasy story telling styles. This will both amaze and delight you. Also, if you love fantasy art and puppetry, this will rock your world.

I don’t recommend this for those who really haven’t gotten into fantasy as it requires the viewer to take a rather large leap of faith on a premise they might not understand. It’s a bit slow and the payout of the story is long in coming. That said, it is beautifully made.


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Vision Board for The Path to the Tower

As much as I’d love to write an insightful and deep post about a topic which is dear to my heart, I’d much rather share some of the art and inspiration behind my current work in progress. That, and like I said earlier, posts this month might be short and sweet due to NaNoWriMo (just passed 36,000 words, woot!).

This is my vision board for The Path to the Tower (working title), a novella that center’s around Isben’s journey to reach Amul Dun, the tower of the Stonebearers. He makes the unlikeliest of friends, attracts a powerful enemy, and learns that life sometimes doesn’t go as planned.

Enjoy!

Fellow creatives, do you use any type of vision board to help you organize your thoughts as you work? I’d love to see it! Share links in the comments!


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NaNoWriMo 2019 – Halfway Point

Whoa-oh, we’re half way there … whoa-oh, livin’ on a prayer!

We just passed the halfway point of the challenge and my story ideas are turning into their own little monsters that taunt me at night. I thought I had an okay grasp of what the story needed to do. That is, until I realized that I had no actual villain to defeat. Gasp. I’ve written short stories where there is no villain and it’s worked fine, but I came to realize with a screeching halt that I’ve never done something novel length this way.

Cue the intense character naval gazing. This brings me to problem #2 – I have a set point where Isben needs to end up at the end of all this, and I can’t change it no matter how much the interesting story fairies try to convince me other wise.

This is hard.

In the past, when I’ve been bedazzled by a sparkly plot bunny, I’ve had full permission to follow it to my hearts content. That’s where some of my best ideas come from, chasing bunnies (and watching an unhealthy amount of Netflix, but I digress).

Dearest Isben, stop being so gosh darn internally complicated. I’ve had to psychoanalyze literally everything about you from your childhood upbringing and the expectations of your family, to your bizarrre irresistable urge to leave home, to how your culture has molded you into something that you feel is not right, and all to find a conflict compelling enough to drive you through this story without turning you into furniture.

That would be so much easier. Isben – you’re a couch now. Stop wanting an active role in your life and I’ll drag you to where you need to be without all the trust issues and drama. All I need is a moving truck and a GPS. You’d get there safe and sound with a minimum amount of drama.

Man, that would be dull reading.

Eyeroll. Fine. But I’m warning you, Isben, not only are you not going to be furniture, but you’ll have to struggle through every page until you reach the end. Don’t worry, I gave you a friend, he might quite possibly be the world’s most annoying bard, but he’s got a heart of gold. You’ll make it. I just need to decide in how many pieces…

Here’s to another ten days and the completion of this crazy project! Forget the treats, send a therapist.


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The Big 40 – I leveled up

Today is the big day where I cross the mile marker between heading up the proverbial hill of life to working my way down the other side. Let’s all go sledding, shall we? I mean, I’ve reached the “fun” part of existence, might as well enjoy it. I couldn’t think of a better group to hang out with than my fellow creatives.

However – for today, on the most momentous of days, I’d like to stop and enjoy the view.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

Ahhh … That’s nice.

Have you ever noticed that the harder the uphill climb, the more breathtaking the view seems once you’ve reached the top? It’s the reward for the hard work it took to climb up to the summit. That, mixed with probably a little bit of oxygen deprivation and sheer relief to just get there, makes for a memorable experience.

My path to the summit has been challenging, but very doable. There have been a few boulders to skirt along the way, but I can say I’ve been pretty lucky. In all my forty years I have never had an extended hospital stay, have never had a serious injury, have never totaled a car, and have never been arrested.

Most of that might be because I’m probably far too careful for my own good. You might argue that I’ve missed out – you might be right. But look – I’ve got a whole parcel of years ahead of me to try a few crazy things. I’m okay with this.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

There are things I’ve done that I’m embarrassingly proud of. I graduated from college, I have three amazing kids (all of which are way smarter than me), I published a book, I’ve traveled the world, I’ve learned a foreign language, I’ve volunteered my time to a non-profit organization, I’ve owned a home, the list goes on.

And I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friends and family.

To all of you, thank you!

Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash

Now, who brought the cocoa? If we’re going sledding that’s super important.

Next up – BASE jumping!

Anyone? … Anyone? … Bueller?


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Happy Birthday Stonebearer’s Betrayal!

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Reminiscing…

Exactly one year ago today Stonebearer’s Betrayal, my very first novel, entered the world – and oh what a day that was. There’s something to be said about a dream you’ve worked on for years to finally happen. To be honest, I was more terrified and insecure about release day than for the birth of my own children. So much depended on things that were wildly out of my hands, everything from Amazon rankings, to generating a good public buzz, tp the people who ended up coming to my launch party. All I could do was try my best and watch and wait.

With my kids, I didn’t have to prove anything. My responsibilities revolved around keeping them healthy and happy and success was easily measured. The world had nothing to do with their well being, as well it shouldn’t.

Yeah, not quite so true with books… Authors are expected to flaunt their book babies to the unsuspecting public at literally every turn. Even more so, we are supposed to go flaunt it to complete strangers and beg, remind, and cajole them to tell us what they think in the form of a review. We spend hundreds of hours seeking out ways of making connections with as many people as possible, because the health of our book baby depends on it.

The Challenges of First time Authoring

Some authors are much better at it than others. One of those tragic truths about creative people is that we’re good at what we do because we thrive on spending time with words and ideas and finding ways to make them exciting. Most of us struggle to reach out to strangers by the hundreds to find ways to share our message.

For me, this entire year has been eye opening to say the least. Leading up to last year’s release, I spent hours and hours learning about all aspects of authoring books, including researching marketing needs. There is something to be said about learning by doing vs. learning by any other means. While taking classes and reading books about the subject is an amazing way to get a general feel for what needs to be done, it feels like each challenge or obstacle is a burning match and the solutions are as easy as blowing it out.

On the other hand, learning by doing, especially when it comes to marketing your own products, is more like being thrown into a building that is on fire. It’s dramatic, scary, and sometimes you feel like you might die from the sheer volume of what needs to be done. No matter how hard you blow, the flaming challenges keep coming back.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I quite literally burned myself out. During the four months leading up to the release and then the six months after, I spent anywhere between 4-6 hours every single day working to find opportunities ranging from identifying people who would be interested in giving reviews to tracking down podcast hosts and pitching them show ideas. Over the course of the year, I showcased over a combined sixty different artists and authors on my blog as I tried to spread good karma.

Don’t get me started on the amount of time I spent trying to find my voice on social media. I still stink at that… But I’m learning!

Worse still, I lost the time to do the parts of authoring that I truly loved. I couldn’t find the time to write down new shiny stories and then polishing them up until they shone. The sequel novel didn’t get the attention it needed, not to mention the dozens of short story projects that I wanted to be a part of but simply didn’t have the time or energy.

Give me a new baby any day. Actually, I take that back. With my young kiddos still at home, I’m still balancing their needs into my working day.

The Future

All that said, the future of the Stonebearers brand is shining bright and I’m excited at all the plans that are coming together as I write this.

The biggest announcement, is that the sequel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal, Stonebearer’s Apprentice is slated to come out the second week of March 2020. Stay tuned for sneak peaks and other amazing stuff I’m planning for its release.

I’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with me. It’s been one wild ride, and will only get better. Thank you dear readers. I couldn’t do it without you.


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Time Management for People with Better Things to Do

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Time. It’s one of those fluid things everything thinks they can control. Funny thing is, no matter what you do, it keeps sliding by. This morning, I’ve had to sneak down to my evil lair two different times to finish different tasks due today. Normally, my Friday mornings tend to be chaotic as I work to get kiddos out the door on a different schedule. Getting any writing work done is usually not on the table until well after 9:30.

Today ended up being different. I know I’m going to be super busy the rest of the day and therefore needed to get my two small deadlines finished and scheduled before heading out on errands. Yay?

Should I have done those two deadlines yesterday when things weren’t as chaotic and not wait until the last minute? Yeah… but I didn’t. If this whole authoring business was easy or predictable, everyone would do it. Now if the voice of reason would please shush? Thank you.

Instead of enjoying my bonus sleeping time that I normally sneak in on Friday, I got my whiny behind up and marched it down to my office to finish task #1 – a scheduled post on the Strong Moms Facebook group. Every Friday I leave a mom friendly tip helping and encouraging women to go reach their goals and life a fulfilling life. It doesn’t take long, but it does take time.

After my first two headed out to school and my oldest was well on his way to being ready, I ran down stairs again to write this lovely post for my regularly scheduled Friday blog. Yeah, not sure if this one is paying off, but it’s something that’s important to me. Not every post can be wonderful or insightful – but every once in a while, I surprise myself.

My other big writing goal for the day is to knock out more words on my NaNoWriMo project and continue pushing forward on that goal. I’d like to do 2000 so I can stay ahead, just in case there are days later in the month, like Thanksgiving, where it will be that much harder to sneak away and write. Knowing my schedule, I’ll be happy with 500, as long as something gets on the page.

The bottom line is, everyone has different time constraints and scheduling needs. If you’ve got a goal and keep putting it off because you can’t find the time, I urge you to reconsider what that actually means. There are weird pockets of time sitting around waiting for you to grab them. Some of them might be funny looking, some might be inconvenient, but they are there.

Now, go do the thing – and then tell me all about it!


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Book Review: Word Painting Revised Edition the Fine Art of Writing Descriptively, by Rebecca McClanahan

For November, and NaNoWriMo month for many of my fellow writers, I thought it would be appropriate to review a book that covers an important part of writing craft – description. There aren’t many books out there about this topic and indeed it would be a challenge to cover the subject in a way that didn’t sound just a little bit crazy. This book does an admirable job.

About the book:

In ten chapters McClanahan discusses different ways to approach the art of turning mundane descriptions into word paintings that grab the reader’s attention and helps feel part of the world they’re reading about. She explores using the different senses, how descrioption can help the reader understand character and setting, and using figurative language and metaphor. The book is thorough, insightful, and includes plenty of examples to help teach.

My review:

For me, the book was an excellent reminder of how much power lies in the perfect description. An evocative piece of description has the power to transport the reader to another place and time where they feel they are living within the pages and seeing and feeling the story through the eyes of the characters. A poor piece of description can do the opposite, pull the reader out of the story, confuse them, and make it hard to understand what is going on in the story.

Perhaps the most useful advice gleaned from the book is the importance of anchoring description deeply into the point of view of the person experiencing it. If the character is a baker, we want to feel the grit of the flour that has collected on the backs of his hands and reminisce of better times as we smell the comforting aroma of fresh bread.

Another thing that McClanahan does well is find hundreds of different examples to help solidify what she is trying to teach. Some of these are remarkable pieces of description that indeed transported me into the world of the scene. When I read them, it made me want to be able to do the same with my own writing.

Recommendations:

I recommend this to writers who feel they have the basics covered and are looking for a way to improve. This book is wonderful to help see different angles that can be taken in a passage of description and helps break writers out of old familiar patterns. It also shows how description doesn’t have to be long to be powerful.

I would not recommend this to brand new writers. While it’s full of important information, it’s also overwhelming with just how many possibilities there are in any given line of description. The best time to read this would be when a writer feels they have established their voice and are looking for ways to improve and deepen it.

I give this book 3 stars.


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 AmazonGoodreads, 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!