My, Oh My, It’s JULY.

I know I’m not the only one to think July has crept up on all of us. That weird cold break a few days ago was enough to make me think maybe we’d hit a time vortex and ended up in March again. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

On a brighter note, I’ve got a handful of baby tomatoes starting to grow in the garden and petunias and clematis flowering around yard. There are beets that are almost ready to harvest and roast for a glorious roast beet and feta salad. Purple hands are worth it for that little slice of heaven. I might even share…

My dear chickens have decided, like they do every year, that they don’t like the heat and spend the better part of the day pretending they’ve melted in the sun. Think cat splat, but with feathers. When they are up and around, they’re hunting the new hoard of grasshoppers that have come in from the nearby field. In this case, the grass really is greener on my side of the fence. Sometimes I even get eggs from them, not the grasshoppers, the chickens. Best cranky pet ever.

Meet Millie and her trademark scowl (she’s miffed I didn’t bring a treat.)

On the writing side of things I’ve found that I really should have been much more diligent in keeping track of important details throughout the series so far. There have been way too many instances where I fell down a “what color were his eyes again?” research hole. Sometimes I can even find the answer, sometimes it turns out I avoided the question for two entire books and get to make even more stuff up, erm, I mean allow the character tell me what works best for the image they’re trying to portray. This is one of those things where you do get better at it the longer you play the game. All you readers can look forward to steadily improving worldbuilding and character building with each release. Yay.

As for goals, I’m still working toward getting book three ready for release by the end of the year, ideally before everyone is finished with their Christmas shopping. To make that happen means hundreds of hours of work, but it’s work I enjoy and find gratifying, so I can’t complain.

Photo by Nicolas Tissot on Unsplash

Happy Fourth of July weekend to everyone! May you celebrate safely and with your favorite people. Follow your local firework guidelines, be responsible, and have as much fun as you can have legally. For us, it means lots of family time, game nights, small fireworks in front of the house, and lots and lots of treats.

Popsicle anyone?


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This Week’s Update

This week it finally got hot. Suddenly going outside in the middle of the day doesn’t feel so good anymore and my new found love of working in the yard turned into less of a love and more of a like. Thankfully, the evenings and mornings are still nice and I found a hammock to fit in my hammock stand.

Sneaking out in the evenings with a book? Yes, please.

More work got done on book three. I delighted in sending both Katira and Isben to be punished for a misdeed. Nothing horrible, just an icky chore that no one else wanted to do. I also planted a few lovely seeds that will grow up into some cool ideas later in the book.

This week I also got to hang out with guys at Dungeon Crawlers podcast and talked about all sorts of nerdy fun ranging from Star Trek to where story inspiration comes from. When I get the air date, I’ll let you know.

Until then, Live long and prosper.

Jodi

And Back to Work!

Launch weeks are always stressful. This one was no different. I would love to claim that I’ve been through enough of them to know what to expect, but there are so many variables that it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen.

All I can say is I’m glad it’s over. Finishing one project frees up head space for the next one, and I’ve been eager to get to work on book three ever since I finished the first draft last summer. This past week I dove back in and started ironing out the bumps. Part of this week’s work included finding the right balance between action and introductions as readers are reentering the Stonebearer world. I swear, opening scenes are one of the hardest parts of novel writing, right up there with marketing. It took several scenes worth of discovery writing before I found something I liked.

As part of creating a realistic world, I spent time this week researching what a medieval lady might wear in the summer as compared to what she’d wear in the winter. Right now, the answer is lots of linen. Still searching down a few other details to slip in as I go. I also got to explore a few new parts of Amul Dun that hasn’t been seen yet.

This is the part of writing I enjoy most, and it feels great to get back to it.

Have a happy and safe weekend!

Jodi


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A Swiftly Tilting Experience

What a week. Between the constant fear of exposure to COVID and witnessing the protests, there has been plenty to worry about. People are justifiably angry. Any action, including inaction, is met with such criticism that many people feeling trapped and helpless in trying to figure out how they should respond.

Know this, you are not alone if you feel this way.

As for me, the best I can do is be kind and fair in all my dealings and teach my kids to do the same.

This week has also been filled with lots of positive experiences. Both my own kids and close family members have made it through another school year and they deserve to be celebrated. Seeing these kids grow up to be confident and capable adults carries a bittersweet joy and is a constant reminder that life is precious and always changing. The cousins and nieces I watched grow up since they were babies are heading off into the world to make their mark.

Photo by Ambreen Hasan on Unsplash

It is a new month and a time to be thinking about goals and things that I want to get accomplished. The production of Stonebearer’s Apprentice is all wrapped up, which is a goal five years in the making. I started drafting the first ideas for this book back in 2015 during that year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m thrilled for it to be hitting the shelves next Friday, June 12th. You can preorder the ebook today!

The next big project is the third and final book in the Shadow Barrier Trilogy, Stonebearer’s Redemption. It’s already drafted, but since I do a lot of discovery writing, editing is a long and involved process. It’s the best part, because this is when I find ways to bring characters, settings, and the story to life. My goal is to spend 5-7 hours a week working on this project with the deadline of finishing the edit at the end of July.

As for everything else business wise, I still plan on writing my usual weekly articles, spending time seeking out marketing opportunities, and there are a few shiny projects on the side I get to play with as well.

My biggest challenge this week will be to figure out how to best manage my time now that we don’t have school so that everything gets done without an undue amount of stress or burning myself out.

If you have a magic solution for that, let me know!


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A Different Kind of Tired

I know you’ve felt it, heck, you might be feeling it right now. There are different flavors of being tired. The one most associated with the word tired is that fatigue that results from lack of sleep or doing too much. If your stress levels have been like mine, you probably have had bouts of insomnia to accompany the whirlwind that is adapting to everyday life, which in turn makes the vicious cycle of being tired that much worse.

Photo by Abbie Bernet on Unsplash

Then, there is the tired that actually means overwhelmed. This is when there are too many items on the to do list, too many thoughts in your head, and too many responsibilities that you feel you can’t possibly meet. Often it’s not that there are actually too many things to do, it’s that trying to wrap your head around doing all of them is downright scary.

It gets even worse when any of those items are frightening by themselves. Lately, some of the simplest things have become scary. Before COVID, I never liked grocery shopping and treated it more like the Grand Prix; prepare ahead, plan my route, get in, get fueled up, pay, get out. The faster the better.

Going to the grocery store now has an extra layer of scary. Nothing like the chance of catching a horrible case of death to spice things up, right? There are all sorts of new rules that people should be following, but everyone you see are doing their own interpretation. Psst … the masks go over the nose, people.

Photo by Scott Warman on Unsplash

This entire week as been filled with the dreadful anxiety that comes with being overwhelmed. This time it’s not the perpetual hedonistic treadmill that is policing my darling kiddos through the rigors of online school, we got that all figured out. It’s not even the ever growing pile of dishes that seem to spontaneously reproduce in the sink and then vomit out all over the kitchen. They’re annoying, but they don’t make my blood pressure go up.

Nope, the biggest source of my overwhelm tiredness hamster wheel is reaching the ‘you better get it done stage’ of releasing book two of the Stonebearer Saga. I’ve made so many promises to get it out earlier this year and I’ve broken everyone. After having to adjust my timeline so many times already, actually committing to something makes me break out in a cold sweat. The goal was to have it out in March. Yeah, that March – you know, the one when the world closed it’s doors and the economy started to slip down the drain.

If I commit to a release date again, I have to complete it. But this time, I’m armed with a manuscript that’s about five hours away from being called completely done. Which leads me to make the following announcement.

Drum roll please …

Stonebearer’s Apprentice will be released June 12 come hell or high water.

Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash

For early bird access to the cover reveal and preorders, come join my Fantasy Reader Community. My readers get everything from free ebooks from authors around the world, sneak peeks inside my writing world, random advice about life, and the occasional opportunity to help me shape the concepts I use in future stories.

This announcement also means that YES, I am looking for reviewers and friends on social media to help me spread the word. If you are interested, let me know and I’d love to work something out!

Squee! So exciting!


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.

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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!


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.

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2018 Year in Review

Wow. What a year. While it’s true my plans for growing my blog readership didn’t happen which had everything to do with being overwhelmed with working to get my first book published, I’m very pleased with what I did accomplish this year. From books read, to posts written, to short stories submitted, to connections made, to articles shared, to podcasts recorded, I’ve been a busy little bee!


Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

Books read from the 2018 reading list

I totally flaked out on reading all of the books I wanted to this year and again I’ll blame it on the stress of the publishing process. Finding each title, and reading it, and returning to share about it here was too much to figure out when all my time and attention was focused on staying afloat while working to make Stonebearer’s Betrayal as good as it could be. The reading I ended up doing was self-indulgent escapism in the form of Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series. No regrets there. The great thing about books is the list I made for 2018 will still be there for me for 2019. Yay!

Fiction:

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Man from Shenandoah – Marsha Ward
Heroes of the Valley – Jonathan Stroud

Non-Fiction:

Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy – David Gerrold
Stiff: Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
Power Cues – Nick Morgan

In addition to being a stressed out slacker, I learned that it takes me far longer than it should to read non-fiction. I do much better if it’s an audiobook because I can listen while I do chores and run errands.


Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Submission Statistics!

Yes, even while I’ve been working to get Stonebearer’s Betrayal out, I’ve been submitting things to places. Although this year, it’s been largely in the name of marketing. Every little bit helps. I’ll note here that I’m not including the soul sucking numbers from seeking out reviewers, and I thought finding a publisher was hard. Yikes. Here’s the stats:

  • 47 items submitted
  • 29 response received (18 still waiting)
  • 10 resulting in positive outcome

The breakdown of those 47 items –

  • 26 presentations
  • 7 panels/roundtable discussions
  • 7 podcasts
  • 5 short stories
  • 2 misc

2018 Blog Statistics

  • 3924 visits
  • 5887 page views
  • 21 posts

Top five posts of 2018

All said, it’s been a busy and wonderful year. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish and am looking forward to an even busier and productive 2019. To you, dear reader, I hope your 2018 was filled with wonders, challenges, and growth as well.

Here’s wishing you a fantastic and productive new year!

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In case you missed it this week:

Here’s an article I wrote about family game night over at Guild Master Gaming. Also, Mike Thayer over at the Calling all Nerds podcast and I had a great time talking about what it’s like to be authors and what inspires us.

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Don’t want more emails? That’s great. I don’t either. You can also follow me on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Pick your favorite social media flavor. I won’t spam you with posts, I promise.

To Bear a Stone

For the longest time I’ve struggled with a perfection complex. If it’s not a perfect fit with what is “supposed” to be done, I get crazy anxious and most of the time end up not starting. This might explain why this novel has taken so long, and why I don’t post here as often as I should. Go figure. It’s my stone to push, which leads me  into what I’d like to talk about today.

The other reason I haven’t posted for a while is that, until recently, I haven’t figured out what my message is, or in industry speak, my brand. Thanks to the amazing and talented J.H. Moncrieff and this years Quills Conference hosted by the League of Utah Writers, I finally think I get it.

If you like noble but dark stories, beautiful Gothic architecture, interesting history tidbits, magic, and finding the best in the worst circumstances – you’re going to like it here.

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Today’s history lesson

Within the boundless reaches of Greek Mythology (Greek! – sorry, inside joke) is the story of the sinner Sisyphus who was condemned to push a boulder uphill only to watch it roll back down day after day. Sisyphus was a cunning trickster during his life. When he died, Hades came for him. Instead of going peacefully, Sisyphus “tested” his new handcuffs on him and tossed him in a closet for a couple of days. I’d be a bit peeved too.

Shenanigans ensued. No one could die because Hades had gone missing. When Sisyphus freed Hades, the cunning trickster was promptly ordered to go to the underworld for his eternal assignment. But – he had another trick up his sleeve. Through a series of bureaucratic loopholes involving a missing coin and an improper burial, Sisyphus managed to sweet talk Persephone into letting him return to his wife and set things straight – and then cheated death until Hades hauled him back to the underworld a number of years later.

For his crimes, and for royally annoying Hades, he was sentenced to to hard labor of the most frustrating kind – rolling a boulder up a hill for no good reason for eternity.

Hades gif.gifTo this day, when people have a frustrating and/or pointless job to do, the story of Sisyphus comes to mind.

What is a Stonebearer?

In the Stonebearer’s Betrayal universe there is a society formally called the Stonebearers of the Khandashii. These are the magic users. Simply put, those belonging  to this society possess a power that enables them to manipulate the world around them and grants them relative immortality. They can still be killed, but they will not die of old age or disease. The term “Stonebearer” comes from the stone they wear that enables them to use their power safely. The Khandashii is the name of the power itself – and is a brilliant topic for another post.

Having the power means enduring the responsibility of being a guardian of mankind, regardless of the prejudice and superstitions mankind have curated to hate any one who demonstrates supernatural abilities. This, paired with a centuries long life, is often more of a burden than a blessing. Like Sisyphus, to many it seems like an endless frustrating punishment.

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Discussion

What are some of the frustrating things you’ve had to do? For me, it’s got to be trying to make a bed when a toddler wants to play on top of it. Or laundry … there’s ALWAYS more laundry, it’s never done! Or … working with flaky people who don’t know how much they don’t get it.

Share your frustrations down in the comments!

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Writing Update

Stonebearer’s Betrayal is entering the final stages of production and we’re steadily getting ready for its November release. Currently we are refining the details on the cover.  I can’t tell you how excited/terrified I am to reach this point. Everything is so, so real.

Also, awesomeness has been happening over at my blog for writers. (Seriously though, go check out the suite of presentation notes I’ve been creating, they rock.)

Other publishing news – If you like dragons, I will be part of a dragon themed YA anthology coming out earlyish next year. If you’re at FanX, one of my flash fiction pieces will be read at the Immortal Works Flash Fiction Friday LIVE podcast, Friday, Sept. 7th at 6pm (255a).

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Stonebearer’s Betrayal comes out November 2018 through the amazing people at Immortal Works Press and will be available on Amazon.

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***

Resources:

Achievement Unlocked – Book Contract!

A little over a year ago, in November 2016, I decided it was time to find a forever home for my book baby, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, and started looking for either a publisher or an agent. Sounds easy, right? Nope. Lemme explain.

A lot of research goes into selecting the right place to submit a manuscript. Think of it like this – Submitting a manuscript is the same as applying for a job. The company needs to be respectable and be able to provide services to the author that will convert their vision into a marketable product. Because a partnership between author and publisher can last years, both parties need to be comfortable with each other.

Just like a job, the best companies are the hardest to get a foot in the door. Enter months and months of rejection, insecurity, and moving on.

Fast forward to June 2017. At this point, I had searched for several months without many leads. While never easy, I had grown used to the sting of the endless string of “no”. I submitted to local Utah publisher Immortal Works. I knew authors who had worked with them and been happy, they had some of my favorite people on staff, and they attended all the conferences I liked attending. Seemed like a great fit.

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Double bonus – my book has immortals in it. Working with a press called Immortal Works seemed like a special kind of karma.

Months go by and I hear nothing. While it’s not unexpected to have to wait, it is uncomfortable, like a splinter. In September I heard back. They wanted to read the whole manuscript. SQUEE! Finally, someone saw potential in my manuscript. A full manuscript request can still result in a rejection, but for the first time in ten months, I dared to hope a little.

More weeks pass and that splinter has grown into a toothpick. I couldn’t go a minute without thinking about it and wondering and hoping. In early November I learn the Senior Acquisitions Editor has recommended my book for acquisition by the company.

SO MUCH SQUEE, I’M GONNA DIE!

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Still, there is a chance they come back and say no. If they are already working with similar titles, or the market is saturated, or they feel it’s not a good fit they can reject a project. It’s an understood part of the business. And the uncertainty sucks.

I might as well have a 2×4 strapped to my head at this point. My family has been super supportive of the publishing process and have patiently listened to all my many ups and downs, but there’s a limit to how much they want to hear about the nitty-gritty of querying and submissions. I stop talking endlessly about it. In fact, talking about it might jinx the whole thing.

The void space of waiting for the final yes is surreal. For so long the golden ticket of having a book published was reserved for more awesome, more deserving, and more talented writers. Having the possibility of my “yes” so close, that golden ticket of validation was nearly mine.

At a time like this, you can’t help but start dreaming of the future and what might happen. So many doors open when an author transitions from short story projects to having their own novel. Invitations to book clubs, speaking engagements, signings, and conferences come easier when you have your own book.

Late November, while chilling watching TV with my hubby and after the kids were in bed, the email comes. The notification jumps up on my phone with a fragment of the message. Not enough to know if it’s a yes or a no, but enough to have a micro heart attack.

It’s a yes.

And a contract.

It’s real.

And I’m like –

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And now the real work starts to make this book as awesome as possible. Stay tuned for more updates!

Update, November 2019 – After a relationship that lasted nearly two years, Immortal Works and I parted ways so I could pursue independent publishing.

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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.