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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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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend was the annual Spring into Books mega author signing where all of us authors got to have a mini writerly family reunion. It was there I learned that my buddy Jared has a brand shiny book coming out soon – Red Prince, a mesoamerican fantasy (very cool). So I had to grab him for an interview!
On to the interview!
First, let’s get to know you a bit better. How would you feel about being stranded on an uninhabited tropical island and what are the three items you’d bring?
I would be all right with being stranded on said island for a limited period of time. If it was permanent, I’d probably have to register a complaint with my travel agent. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Also, New York’s hottest stranding has every item you could need: a hatchet for cutting, hammering, and being the steel to spark off of for fire; a jet-ski which is that thing where you can ride around in bodies of water and do sweet tricks; and plenty of gas for the jet-ski.
What I’m saying is that all I’d need is a hatchet and a conveyance off the island. To stick to the conventional rules, I would bring a hatchet, a big spool of bailing wire, and 10 lbs of dental floss. And if someone could have a big slice of cake ready for me after I was rescued- that’d be great.
What are two pet peeves of yours that make you want to flip the table?
I have a lot of these, so I’ll narrow them down to things that happen at tables. I get pretty frustrated when the people I’m eating with aren’t paying attention enough to the group to hear when they should be passing things to folks asking for the steaks or mashed potatoes or what have you. Granted, I have a +13 on Passive Perception, so I hear everything being said, but folks need to tune in and maybe not slip into their endless private conversations about string theory, Breath of the Wild, or what have you.
Another table-related pet peeve is a wobbly table. You sit there and lean on the table and you just see-sawed your companion’s food into their face. No bueno. This really makes me want to flip the table over and fix the dang leg.
Okay, in truth, all joking aside, I have two actual major pet peeves. First is when someone leaves trash or mess. How hard is it to clean up after yourself? How inconsiderate can you be to not care about the people you share that space with that you leave a mess? Second, someone eating or drinking while they’re on the phone with me or anyone else. That makes me want to flip the table, chop it to pieces with my hatchet, then burn it. Is this civilization or isn’t it?
You’ve written in multiple different time periods and genres. Which one is your favorite and why?
My debut was a novelization of my own childhood in a cult that splintered off of Scientology in the sixties – which I happily escaped from when I was 17. So that’s a modern, coming of age story. And I loved writing it. I have a few more like that in my folder of projects to get to. That book is probably my favorite since I poured five years of my writing life into it. That said, it’s a blast writing in a speculative future where I can riff on modern technology and try to come up with cool evolutions of today’s tech, societal trends, and governments. But it’s a lot of work to put real science into science fiction. Which is why I tend to stick to fantasy. I tried writing fantasy set in a sword and sorcery world and it went okay, but felt very derivative of masters like Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and R.A. Salvatore. So now I write fantasy in our world, with the fantastical elements being largely influenced by world religious mythology and legends of the regions and times I write in. This stuff lands in the sweet spot of where I like to speculate based on all of my studies and reading about world cultures and history. So I’m happy in my fantasy stories right now– writing fast-paced action filled with big heroes who get the stuffing beaten out of them and keep going. It’s a lot like if you mashed up Tarzan or Princess of Mars and Die Hard.
All that said, I’m planning an espionage thriller series set in our modern day. I adore Robert Ludlum and other espionage masters, so it’s high time I give it a whirl.
Whatever I’m writing, what readers will quickly learn I love is to write about flawed, determined, tough people who choose to stop evil at great cost to themselves. And the good guys always win. And there’s always some romance.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?
That I don’t write for an age. For the longest time, I thought I was a YA author. But I write for all ages and literally everyone. I have a couple books that are used for reluctant readers. I write clean enough for anybody to read. It was a great thing when I had my “I don’t care about age categorization” epiphany. I could break free from some of the goofy baggage attached to some of the age categorization sub-cultures, which was very good. I don’t feel weighed down by having to be careful of this or that crowd. I just write awesome stuff now, with zero worry about the opinions of self-appointed gatekeepers.
Another thing that was surprising to me was that when I tried to write a love triangle in Beat and Push, it didn’t work. It didn’t ring even close to true. It occurred to me that in my, admittedly limited, experience, I’d never encountered a love triangle. And I read YA books that were awash in angsty love triangles and it turned out I didn’t believe them.
As for learning something about myself- I have learned that if I want to write stories that make me proud, I have to put my all into it. It’s scary to have such ambitious ideas for my books, but screwing my courage to the writing point has been a valuable exercise. I feel comfy in my skin now that I’ve learned to write the story the way it is in my head and heart. Without skirting or taking the easy way out.
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 have Andúril, the Sword of Kings, reforged by Elrond for Aragorn to wield in the ultimate battle against the dark forces of Sauron. It hangs on my wall. So does Sting- the sword not the singer. I have a fancy picture of the Serenity and one from Battlestar Galactica. I have a huge print of Frazetta’s Death Eater glowering at me. I’ve got a six inch tall, beautiful sculpture of Gollum looking over my shoulder and the Argonath looming over me from a bookcase behind me.
But the most interesting thing to me is the six bibs and completion medals from the endurance races I’ve done and a print copy of every book I’ve published. These remind me that I can do the hard things, and not only that, I love doing the hard things. I thrive on pushing past what I thought were my limits. The bibs and books remind me of that and keep me going.
What’s next? What are you working on?
I’m querying for my memoir and am on the last possible submission place for my Old West Gunpowder fantasy with dragons and monsters- if the place I’ve sent it doesn’t want it, I’ll self-publish it. I am outlining my espionage series. And for actual new words, I’m finally going to write the rest of Passenger to Carthage, my steampunk time travel story about a woman trying to save Joseph Smith from assassination so he can become president. For entirely secular reasons. She thinks Manifest Destiny is one of the worst evils ever and wants to save the indigenous peoples from it- and Joseph Smith was opposed to Manifest Destiny. This started as a short story and is going to be at minimum a novella.
Also, my newest book, Red Prince, is out on May 31st. It’s the third in a mesoamerican fantasy trilogy and it is no holds-barred fun.
About Red Prince
Lakhoni and his family are in search of a home away from the blood, evil, and memories of Molgar and his plans to rule two nations. Alronna’s dreams are leading them north, to a land of abundance and peace.
But when they come upon a slaughtered village, the chase begins anew. Gadnar, Molgar’s, powerful brother, escaped the showdown at the end of Usurper and is spilling blood everywhere he goes. He seeks the final ancient Relic, certain it will give him power over the land.
Setting aside their quest for peace, Lakhoni, Alronna, Simra, and their companions track Gadnar, determined to end his reign of terror. But as the source of his power becomes clear, they will have to face down an evil as ancient as creation. If they fail, monsters beyond imagination will enshroud the land, putting all the people under thrall. But to succeed, they will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice.
Alronna dropped onto the smooth log next to Lakhoni. He flinched. “Alronna. Haven’t seen you much.”
She nodded. “I’ve been trying to figure out these dreams.” Her face, lit orange and yellow by the flames, looked confused. “I know what they mean and know I’m going to listen to what they’re telling us to do—go north. But why am I having them?” She grew quiet for a moment. The next thing she said was so quiet he almost couldn’t hear. “And why do they only come if I’m holding the Sword while I’m sleeping?”
“What?” Cool tingles slid down his neck and back. “You never told me that.” Lakhoni’s eyes dropped to her side. The Sword of Nubal hung there, resting and poking out somewhat awkwardly on top of the log.
“I realized it only a few days ago and tested the idea.” Alronna swallowed. “I’m sure. If I sleep with one hand on the Sword, the dreams come. If not, they don’t.”
“You mean ‘so do.’” Alronna shifted and gave Lakhoni a sardonic smile. “Why would I not have the dreams if they’re guiding us the right way? What else could they help us with or warn us about? Why would I ever let go of the Sword?”
“So you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.” Lakhoni took in his sister’s face—no longer gaunt from slavery, but not young and soft like before she had been taken. Now she looked like a warrior woman, a lot like Anca and Marana of the Azarites to the northwest. She looked strong. Unstoppable. But right now, she also looked worried and confused.
Excerpt from Red Prince, by Jared Garrett
About today’s guest:
Jared Garrett is the author of the number one bestselling scifi thriller Beat and a bunch of other lies in book form. He is a family man raising seven kids with his best friend and wife of two decades.
Jared had an odd childhood in a nomadic cult, which he left at seventeen. He’s worked as a firefighter, a BBQ restaurant manager, a cowboy theater actor, a bellman, and as a rubber vulcanizing engineer, among many others.
His favorite authors are Terry Pratchett, Robert Ludlum, Katherine Paterson, Douglas Adams, Patricia McKillip, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, R.A. Salvatore, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many more. If you ask him where his story ideas come from, be prepared for a lengthy discussion about inspiration dust, hauling a towel wherever you go, and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. No, seriously. Dogs.
My buddy James and I did a super entertaining blog swap. He asked me to stretch out of my writing comfort zone and write a cyberpunk “how to” article. Here’s what I came up with. Be sure to like and follow James at his blog. 🙂
As part of a blog swap (see my last post), Jodi L. Milner wrote these fun instructions, which I think you’ll enjoy.
Assembling your Cyberpunk Heist Team
By Jodi L Milner
Listen, if you’re reading this you are already up to no good. Kudos. I like your moxi. Chances are you’ve got plans, big ones, the kind that needs cash. We’re not talking about rummaging up enough coins to sleep in a real bed, that’s nothing. If you take my advice, you’ll never have to sleep on a pile of cardboard again.
We’re talking credits. Those penthouse-dwelling corporate yes-men got ‘em. You need ‘em. The cybernetic enhancements you want won’t pay for themselves, and without ‘em you might as well start selling your brain space to the highest bidder.
To pull off a successful heist, you need a team.
The Mastermind – That’s you, sweetheart. Someone must know what’s really…
January is all about new beginnings and I, among others, have beat the goals and resolutions drum loudly and with gusto. But, have you ever thought about where the word January comes from?
Until recently neither did I. That was, until I ran across an article about Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings. Seeing as history holds it’s own special magic, today we will explore the history of how January got it’s name.
Both Rome and Greece both celebrated many gods, each with a very specific purpose. The majority of these gods were shared between the two cultures, each with their own specific name. The Roman Jupiter is the Greek Zeus and stands and the King of the gods. Neptune is Poseidon and is the god of the sea. Venus is Aphrodite and is the goddess of love and beauty.
Janus, in contrast, is purely Roman with no Greek equivalent and is the only god with that distinction. In ancient history, Janus was the god of beginnings and endings and presided over entrances and exits. To represent this role, his is often depicted as a two-faced god, or a god who can look in both directions.
Unlike other Roman gods, there is evidence that Janus actually lived. One of the myths declares that he ruled alongside the Roman king Camesus and was exiled to Thessaly. His children included Tiberinus, which is where the name of the Tiber river originates. He built a city on the west bank of the Tiber named Janiculum.
Shrines to Janus are generally located near river crossings or bridges and are themselves passageways to enter and exit places of reknown, the most important of these being the shrine near the Argeletum entrance to the Forum. This shrine had bronze doors which were kept open in times of war, and closed in times of peace.
According to Roman historian Livy, these gates were only closed twice between the 7th and 1st centuries BCE due to the Roman tendency to always be at war.
Many modern day sources will attribute Janus in the naming of January. To my surprise, I found this isn’t technically true. There is an older attribution to Juno, the queen of the gods. While it makes sense to honor her in this way, I will hold with modern sources that persist in tying January to Janus.
January marks both the end of an old year, and the beginning of a new one. It is the doorway marking the entrance of the earth into another cycle around the sun. Janus is the guardian of the same. It simply fits better.
Last week I joined Jason Woodland on his podcast “Always the Journey.” We had a great time talking about everything from favorite movies, to the influences of travel, to the color that represents my work. Be sure to check it out!
Thanks for joining us today! If you’d like to be notified of future posts, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.
Yes, you, dear reader. I am grateful we are sharing this tiny moment of our day together. I’m grateful you chose to click the link and see what I have to say. Writers can’t exist in a vacuum, we need to know there is someone out there who is interested in what we have to say. Today, in this exact second, that person is you.
You are the reason I create magical pieces of fiction. You are the reason I stay up at night thinking of how to untangle a difficult story line. You are the reason why I seek out interesting topics to share. If it weren’t for you, I’d probably be doing something mundane like folding laundry or cleaning the kitchen.
Here at the opening of the holiday season I find myself full of conflicting emotions. With Thanksgiving, and it’s focus on gratitude, this is the perfect time of year to reflect what I’m grateful for here at the blog – and what a year it’s been! At this time last year, I discovered my book was going to be published. I dreamed of what today would look and feel like.
Being here, at this moment, is a culmination of years of dreaming and working. I’m excited about the possibilities the future holds, but also know how much work each of those possibilities require to make real. Everyone wants a runaway success, no one wants to think about how much effort it takes for that to happen.
Which is why I’m grateful for you, dear reader. Every click turns into a number, and while most of you will only be known as a number to me, each number is meaningful, because it means you were here.
Thank you for being here!
Last weeks launch party and book signing was a success. A huge thank you to Aaron and the Printed Garden for hosting, to Jordan for bringing his amazing sword exhibit, and to my friends and family who came and supported me.
Missed the Launch? Have no fear, I’ll be signing at The Printed Garden during the Shop Local Saturday event, Nov 24th from 1-4 pm.
In other news, I’ve been busy connecting with other blogs and podcasts. Here is what was posted this week:
Wonderfully crafted story. I really enjoyed how the story unfolded and grew as I read. The characters were well created and brought me into the story, and made me feel all the emotions a good character does. Yes, I even shed a few tears. Well done. Can’t wait for more. – Blyck
The more time you spend working to become an author and to publish, the more you realize just what a big deal it is for your name to be known among the general population. Think about it, there are millions of authors out there who are published, and several million more who are working to become published.
Knowing an author’s name, even if you haven’t read them, means that they have attained a level of success that few can even dream of. Stephen King, Dan Brown, JK Rowling, and Neil Gaiman, are now household names.
Terry Pratchett is one of those authors who have broken the mold among the fantasy community. Over the course of his career he has published an astounding 66 books. Forty of these books belong to the globally popular Discworld series.
What makes Pratchett’s writing unique is his firm grasp on satire and knowing just how far to push an illogical situation. Some of his most iconic images are in fact the most silly, such as the Luggage, which is described as this:
The Luggage is a large chest made of sapient pearwood (a magical, intelligent plant which is nearly extinct, impervious to magic, and only grows in a few places outside the Agatean Empire, generally on sites of very old magic). It can produce hundreds of little legs protruding from its underside and can move very fast if the need arises. It has been described as “half suitcase, half homicidal maniac” (Sourcery paperback p22).
Terry Pratchett died in his home last week after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. His courage and wit have inspired millions, including me.
Happy President’s Day everyone! I hope you all have fun plans to celebrate the day.
My friend and fellow writer Ginger Commander Mann had the brilliant idea to allow the twins from her story “Jilted River” to interview the twins from my story “Breath”. Both our stories appear in the Xchyler Publishing fantasy anthology The Toll of Another Bell.
Pop culture has everything to do with the latest and best incarnations of our favorite things, and music is no exception. In my high school years I loved the piano music of Jon Schmidt almost as much as I loved and still love soundtrack music.
Yesterday I found the best of both worlds – Jon Schmidt playing awesome mixes of some of the best soundtrack music out there along with his awesome buddies in The Piano Guys. Here’s my new favorite mix, Batman Evolution. Not only do they weave the best of the Batman theme songs from across the years, but they have been allowed to borrow three of the original Bat mobiles as set pieces.