Climbing Walls

Last week I talked about how I had gotten myself stuck in a story problem and hadn’t managed to navigate my way out of it. This isn’t some remedial math course, honestly actual math problems are so much easier. All the information is there, you just have to figure out how the pieces fit together to find the answer.

No, this was an entirely different kind of story problem. One that had an actual story broken in the middle of it. In the past, I’d keep writing scenes until something worked. The action of putting words on the page often loosens up the creativity enough for a great idea to fall out. But considering where my anxiety and stress levels have been these past few weeks, not only does that option seem tedious and time wasting, I simply don’t have the energy to play with ideas and scenes that I will probably have to throw away.

I had a wall. How do we get over walls? We build ladders.

When we can’t build a ladder, we break out the sledgehamers.

Whatever you do, don’t take a sledgehammer to your ladder. That really doesn’t help.

As the week kept trickling by, and I knew I would have to be accountable to you dear people, I knuckled down and got to work – yesterday. I lined up all the loose ends, teased out the biggest issues, and tackled the dragon that was holding my ending hostage. After all of that, I’m proud to say I now have a direction to follow, and several burns and scratches that probably need some attention.

So yeah, I could still use some ice cream, and maybe a band-aid or two.

Now the real work of getting the thing written can begin. Yay?

Could someone tell the dragon that I’m out of treats and he needs to go home?

Down, Zeddicus!

Too Many Goals, a Cautionary Tale

As an ambitious person, I tend to go overboard when it comes to setting goals. A good goal should force you to stretch yourself to reach, but still be doable. They require real effort. This is a good thing. Reaching for a goal means that even when I don’t complete it in its entirety, I still work harder and get more done than if I hadn’t set the goal at all.

The problem I keep running into is setting too many goals at one time. When this happens, I spend each day scrambling to try to reach the most important ones and lamenting the ones I didn’t have time to work on. It’s a nasty cycle. Without fail, I’ll say stupid things to myself like “I can catch up on that tomorrow or over the weekend” fully knowing that the time fairy isn’t going to grant me more hours, even if I promise to slip her into one of my stories. Sometimes it’s not time that causes the problem, but energy. It doesn’t matter how much free time you have if you’re too tired to think or work.

I started July like I start every month, by looking over what I really wanted to make progress on and then setting goals that would help me do so. Turns out there were plenty of things I wanted to be more consistent doing that included house and yard work, personal health goals, and of course, authoring pursuits.

When I counted the things on my list today, I found sixteen different tasks that I needed to accomplish if I wanted to reach all those goals today. Some only take a few minutes, but most take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours each. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math there. Even on a great day, there’s no way I’d have the time. Especially since I’ve also got the kiddos at home and need to give them attention as well, not to mention keep everyone fed.

Yep, just thinking about it is stressing me out a little.

Will I learn my lesson when I set goals for August? I surely hope so. The good thing is that every time I work through one of these challenges, I do learn a few things. This time I learned that tracking that many goals becomes stressful and tedious. It’s best to limit goals to the things that are truly important and then do the best you can with the rest.

My question to you is, are you a goal setter? If so, what does your goal setting practice look like?


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 and get a signup bonus of one of my short stories for free.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Wait, it’s Friday?

This week slid past way too fast, one of the side effects of having way too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s a good problem to have. Usually. Part of this busyness stems from going on a terrific road trip with the family last week. This is also the reason nothing got posted here on the blog all last week. Internet connections while traveling from campsite to campsite are notoriously sketchy.

As much as you all were craving a pages long travelogue of all the many exciting parts of the trip, I’ll spare you the slideshow. In short, we crossed the entire state of Wyoming, visiting Devil’s Tower along the way before heading up to Mount Rushmore. That’s lots of forced togetherness time in a car, especially when our phone wielding teenagers had to suffer through several hundred miles of dead zones. In all honesty, they were really good sports for the whole thing.

Being responsible and checking off the bucket list. Woot!

Now that we’re back, I’ve thrown myself headfirst into several projects and figured out a few goals and milestones that I’d like to reach before the end of July. The first of which is to complete edits of at least one scene of my next book each weekday. This would have been so much easier had the scenes I needed to work on this week not been the ones I dashed out during NaNoWriMo while rushing to hit wordcount goals. Note to self, next time you do crazy word goals at least go back and fix the flubsy typing so you can read what you wrote a year later. Okay? Thanks.

It also doesn’t help that I was discovery writing a large part of the story at the time. While there are some bits I’m very proud of, there are also huge chunks of flaming garbage to wade through. It hurts to delete whole scenes because they no longer fit, just saying.

One of the best parts of this week is that I’ve finally given myself permission to spend time on a new writing project. I haven’t worked on a new story for nearly a year and I’ve missed it. Monday and Tuesday I mapped out the key points and pinned down a few bits of research I needed before starting, and then the rest of this week I’ve been writing. My hope is if I approach this one with a bit more intention and less wild finger flailing I can avoid having to delete as much as I usually do. Keep your fingers crossed for me.


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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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?


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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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


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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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!


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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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 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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

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!

***

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.

Like this post? Want to stay in the loop? Be sure to like and subscribe!

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.