Adventure is out there!

As the summer rolls on, it’s becoming harder and harder to hide in my cute little office and work. There are exciting things to do, things to see, and I might be a teensy weensy bit stir crazy. When the crazies set in, it’s time for a change of scenery.

This weekend that drive to adventure took our family up Big Cottonwood Canyon to explore the Mill B area. What’s great about this spot is that the water from the river cools down the canyon floor making it a welcome break from the summer heat. There are stunning waterfalls, comfortable short hikes, and plenty of rocks for the kiddos to scramble around on.

On a recommendation from a family member, we found Hidden Falls which is marked only by a tiny sign. It’s not even a hike, but rather a climb up the side of a hidden stream that leads to a lovely isolated grotto. The kids had a great time climbing and traversing the stream on half submerged rocks like a real world “floor is lava” game, and I was thrilled to get them away from their screens for a while.

To finish up the afternoon, we hiked Mill B South which is also a short well-maintained and nearly flat trail that leads to a larger staircase waterfall at the end. It’s a perfect place to bring a picnic and get away from things.

A lot of this area is what I imagine the dramatic canyons and mountains in Stonebearer’s Betrayal to feel like. There are steep slopes and hidden gems just waiting to be found. Maybe if I go far enough, I’ll find an immense castle occupied by magical immortals.

Hey, a girl can dream.

What are your favorite outdoor activities?


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My New Favorite Thing: Calm Stories

There’s something inherently soothing about listening to a story. It brings back memories of comfortable evenings curled up on a couch and having someone read to me, or listening to tales spun around a campfire under the glittering stars.

Lately, I’ve been indulging in audiobooks as an escape from the mundane. It makes doing housework and yardwork an excuse to get away from the well worn sights and complaints of being stuck at home. With a story in my ears, I can let my mind wander to a new place and step into someone else’s shoes for a while. Sometimes these places are fantastical and dangerous, sometimes they are familiar. It’s a nice change while it lasts.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

A week ago I spotted a new trend in storytelling and I kind of love it. It might be my new favorite idea ever. Just the thought of it makes me smile. Celebrities are reading bedtime stories to anyone who wants to hear them on the Calm app. Imagine that soothing comfort of being curled into a blanket and listening to a story, but this time it’s spoken in the warm tones of a character’s voice you love.

The celebrity that caught my attention was Jerome Flynn of Game of Thrones fame. He was the morally grey sell-sword who enters service as a bodyguard to Tyrion, one of the princes of King’s Landing. He’s got a deep calm voice with an ever so appealing soft Scottish accent. I wouldn’t mind drifting off to sleep listening to him tell a story one bit.

Meet Bronn, played by Jerome Flynn, one of my favorite roguish characters.

The Calm app is something I’ve used for meditation off and on. There is a little bit of everything in there so everyone can find something that works for them. I usually use the guided meditation with music portion of the app but am seriously considering listening to the bedtime stories next time I fight a bout of insomnia.

While there are plenty of different people reading bedtime stories, here are the ones that caught my attention –

  • Matthew McConaughey
  • Jerome Flynn
  • Lucy Liu
  • LeVar Burton
  • Bob Ross
  • Stephen Fry

If this sounds soothing to you, go check it out.

https://app.www.calm.com/sleep

Note, I’m not being sponsored or compensated in anyway for my review or post, I just really like this idea. Now to find some cozy headphones to wear in bed.

Oh wait, here’s some. Yep. I know what’s going on my wish list next.

Who would love to hear read you a bedtime story? Let me know in the comments!


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Jodi L Milner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Valentine’s Gifts for the Author in your Life

All hail the corporate money grab that is Valentine’s Day!

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of Valentine’s Day. I love spending time thinking of something special to give to a significant other, or figuring out ways of showing appreciation. Having a day for this is a great reminder of something we should be doing all the time.

If your someone special happens to be an author, here are five thoughtful and fairly inexpensive gift ideas of things they will love.

Writing Gloves

Sitting still and working at a computer for hours on end often means cold hands and feet. These cute writing gloves add an extra layer of warmth and charm. Choose from several different writing samples. I have the Pride and Prejudice set and may or may not have my eyes on the Little Prince set.

Digital Recorder

Yes, I know that a phone can do it. But, even with the best of intentions, a phone can be very distracting and unsafe to use while driving. A digital recording device eliminates all the guess work and in most cases it’s as easy as 1) push the easy-to-find button and 2) start talking. I don’t have one of these yet, but I have my eye on this one:

Distraction free writing keyboard

I’ll admit, this is one of my favorite little toys because it’s fun and easy to use. You can bring it anywhere, the battery lasts for months, and it’s easy to transfer text to a computer. I’ve used mine for taking notes at conferences, writing chapters for NaNoWriMo, and drafting blog posts on the go. Note, this particular model is pretty old school and the listings you will find will be refurbished items.

Snarky Writing Themed T-shirt

Every writer needs at least one funny writing t-shirt. I have two. One reads “Hyperbole: the best thing ever” and the other “Authors, always making a scene.” There are hundreds to choose from, but here are a few I found especially amusing:

Book inspired chocolates and treats

Treats and writing go hand-in-hand. A thoughtful gift could simply be a collection of the goodies the author in your life enjoys. I love Jelly Belly jelly beans, sugar wafers, and cheetos. But, if you want to ramp it up a notch, here are a few other awesome options:

If all else fails …

If you’re still stuck, there’s always a gift card. I know for certain that your author has a stack of books on their “I really want this” list. A gift card lets them pick the perfect one that they want right in the moment, or wait until their next favorite juicy title comes out.


I hope these ideas were helpful for you! If you have any other amazing gift ideas, please share them in the comments. I’m always looking for cool new things to try.


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. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

Jodi L Milner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

A Love Letter to Epic Music

Music is a powerful thing. There’s no other force on earth that can manipulate the whole spectrum of human emotion using only vibration. The closest parallel I can think of is what writers do using only symbols on a page. Go figure…

Growing up, I could never sleep (thanks anxiety!) and would lie awake in bed for hours. To keep me quiet and hopefully lull me to sleep I would listen to music cassettes. Yes, cassettes. There was once an incident involving the soundtrack to A Chorus Line. I must have been three or four years old.  Apparently, one day I started wandering around the house singing “Dance 10, Looks 3” (famously known as the “Tits and Ass” song). Google at your own risk there. Somehow that cassette disappeared from my collection and was replaced with famous classical pieces … odd.

I still have sleepless nights, but now I keep myself busy coming up with new things to do to my characters.  Insert evil laugh here.

An endless parade of violin lessons, orchestras, ensembles, and quartets later, and you can say classical music is in my blood. But, not the boring uppity stuff. Nah. Give me Dvorak, give me Wagner. Give me modern-day movie soundtracks! Get my heart beating. Excite me, people! Loud horns. Drums that shake the floor. Sweeping strings. I love it all.

It’s no surprise that now as a grown up, or at least someone pretending to be one, intense classical music works a special kind of magic over me. I am transported. I use it to summon up the right feelings when writing and editing intense and/or emotional scenes. Thanks to Mr. Internet, there is a wealth of music that really scratches my itch. Here are some of my favorites.

Do you have a favorite piece of music that stirs you? Share it in the comments!

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Being Happy with Your “Now” You

forest-autumn-fall-trees-stone-colors-leaves-beautiful-wallpapers-hd-1280x768.jpgI got a rejection this morning. Another one. The ninth in six weeks.

Was I upset? Absolutely. I let myself be angry for about five minutes. I may have punched the mattress a few times.

It’s after times like these I get a bit introspective. That, and I’ve got a birthday coming up. It’s almost impossible to not think about what I’ve done with my life so far. Have I made the difference in the world that I hoped for this year?

This past year has been hugely different from previous years. In November 2016, I sent out my first query letter seeking a publisher for my first novel. This process is not for the weak at heart. Every time I hit send, I put this book into someone else’s hands hoping they will see in it the potential I do.

Then comes the waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

This is not calm, patient waiting. This is anxiety gripping at the throat waiting. Any minute an email might come that will change everything. It’s tense business. It’s hard to go on living a normal life and not be forever staring at my phone waiting for that notification to come through.

After five and six and ten and fourteen rejections you’d think I’d get numb to it. And I have, a little. You are forced to distance yourself from your project and see it as something other than your baby.

At the same time, it’s hard to not take rejection personally and not have feelings of worthlessness creep in when my project I’ve thrown my soul into is rejected time and time again.

What does this have to do with happiness? Nothing. Everything.

If this year has taught me anything it’s that happiness has nothing to do with what is happening around you and to you. Good things happen, bad things happen. Should you depend on your circumstances to determine your mood, you are cursed to live a life that looks like a roller coaster.  The only constant in your life is you. If you can’t find happiness in your own skin, what makes you think you can find it anywhere else?

There has been one other significant change in my life this past year. My youngest now goes to school everyday. I didn’t realize what a difference it makes when I can take care of myself instead of living in survival mode. You can’t be happy if you are living in survival mode. You are just trying to not drown as the next wave comes.

It’s been a long year, and an educational one. Between finally getting some “me” time and learning to accept endless rejection, I’ve found a weird happiness.

I’m okay with the me I am. And that’s just fine.

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How have you found your happiness? Share in the comments below! Don’t forget to “like” and “subscribe” so you don’t miss out on future posts.

 

League Flash Fiction Prize Winner

image_1I almost forgot – In all the hustle and bustle of the last few weeks I won a prize! Yay! Someone out there actually likes my work, and it’s not my mother (although she likes it too…I think).  The League of Utah Writers holds several conferences and events throughout the year. In their big Fall conference they hold a large writing contest for anyone who wants to participate.

There are a ton of categories to choose from including first chapter, whole book, short story, article, etc. I usually end up doing flash fiction because of time constraints. I can finish and polish a 1000 word or less story much faster than say, a novel.

My story “Mundane Chores” centered around a playful interaction of mother and young child. The mother is trying to fold laundry and the child is doing his very best to distract her from it. It’s not really a story, but rather a vignette meant to capture a moment of childhood and parenthood. Had I managed to make it a story with an inciting incident and clever ending I might have taken a higher prize than third place.

I’m not complaining. This was a piece I wrote in a car driving to Yellowstone with my family, which includes several young children. I’m ecstatic to take home anything.

Winning is a huge confidence boost. I hope to write and enter more contests in the future.

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015

Hello friends!

I’ve been off on hiatus for a while, but I promised to come back if anything interesting happened, so here I am.

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This last weekend was the 3rd annual Salt Lake Comic Con held at the Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah. My husband and I took the weekend to go live it up with 120,000 other creative and devoted fans of fiction. One of the unique parts of any comic convention is that the participants are encouraged to dress the part of a favorite character, and boy did people dress up. By far the most popular characters to copy this year were the Joker and his plaything Harley Quinn, with Doctor Who coming in a close second with different iterations of the various doctors, especially Matt Smith in that deplorable fez.

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

This was an opportunity not to be missed. Hubby and I pooled our creative talent and created the power duo of Ming the Merciless and his fabulous General Kala, using the imagery from the 1980 Flash Gordon movie. 12063892_1130999466927661_4069948762659839179_n

We were stopped by adoring fans everywhere in the con and counted 115 different people asking for our picture. It’s easy to see why people love to come, the inner narcissist in me was having a hay day. My inner introvert, on the other hand, cowered in the corner and waited for it all to be over.

We entered the Cosplay Competition and made it to the semi finals, which meant we got to walk the stage in front of hundreds of people and strut our stuff. There’s a video out there somewhere… We didn’t win, but we had fun.

Another reason to attend the conference is to see celebrities. We attended panels with Marina Sirtis (counselor Troy on Star Trek), Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgee on Lord of the Rings), James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley on Harry Potter), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara Oswald on Doctor Who), and Anthony Daniels (C3P0 on Star Wars). We signed up for photo ops with the Phelps twins and Anthony Daniels who was delightfully friendly.

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There were also hoards of local authors in attendance, including many of my friends, which made wandering the vendor hall that much more fun.

Believe in America

My dear friend Barbara was so kind to post this, go check it out!

Uniting Caregivers

July-Believe in AmericaI’m excited to celebrate our Nation’s Independence Day. I’ll be thinking about and honoring all the service men and women this weekend. Thank you to all who cared enough to serve our country. Military service affects parents, children, spouses and friends. I appreciate the sacrifices made by families along with the soldier’s. For the families who have lost their loved one because they gave the ultimate gift, their life, I recognize the noble and courageous cost.

I’m proud to be an American and I hope it shows in the way I live my life. Independence Day always fills my heart with gratitude and a desire to give back by serving others.

How will you celebrate July 4th?

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Supporting that Writer in your Life

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Chances are one of your friends or family members have decided to take the path less traveled and have started to write seriously. They work from their home office or a laptop on the kitchen table and work on their ideas during every spare minute they can get. They might have another job that pays the bills or the support of a loving spouse that enables them to pursue their dream.

Writers come in all varieties, ranging from the uncommitted hobbyist who maybe spends a handful of hours a month or less on their craft, to the professional who writes full-time.  I fall in the middle somewhere. Most of my day is spent trying to squeeze in a few hours of writing work between caring for my 3-year-old who likes lots of attention, keeping the house fed and the family clean. When I am writing, that work is divided between blogging, drafting new ideas, manuscript editing, beta reading, book reviews, and self promotion.

While I can’t find any balance between my writing and normal life, perhaps you can help the writer in your life find theirs.

Here are a few helpful articles to help you with that writer in your life:

LDStorymakers in Review

11244904_10205537467848961_7298393372357348081_nI survived the writing conference. I know it was a good one because I didn’t want to leave and return to real life, which is my litmus test of choice when evaluating an event. While I can wish all I want for more, that would be selfish. There are little monsters angel babies at home that miss their momma.

Of all the conferences I’ve attended, this one comes close to being the best. Local writing celebrities and NYT Bestsellers came and taught some of their delicious trade secrets, including James Dashner, author of the Mazerunner series; J Scott Savage, author of the FarWorld series; Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series; and several more.

By far the most influential class I attended was a two-hour intensive by the effervescent and talented Margie Lawson, a psychiatrist by trade, and a guru of teaching the art of making mundane prose sing. She made a personal study of the best books out there and boiled out the different literary devices that made the reader feel that much desired emotional punch. Then she shared those juicy tidbits with us!

The two keynotes were from celebrated authors Anne Perry and Martine Leavitt who both emphasized the importance of perseverance and also spoke about how writing is a gift to the writer. Both addresses fed and enriched the audience.

Perhaps the most important part of any conference is the feeling of being with your tribe. Fellow writers and geeks are my tribe and being able to spend a weekend with hundreds of them is the equivalent of gassing up the motivational tank. They share the same struggles and frustrations as I do as well as the joys. They know exactly what a big deal it is for a publisher to request a full, they know what a crushing defeat it is to receive a rejection. They understand how to talk about stories and characters in a deep meaningful way.  They make it hard to come back to the real world where the people around you don’t.

With these new tools under my belt, and my tank full, I’m hoping to embark on a new level of writing and find even more joy and success in doing so. That is if my little angel baby (who is currently bashing his head against my leg) will permit me to do so.