Learning by Going, by Caryn Larrinaga

Everyone loves a good ghost story and with October lurking just around the corner I thought it was a brilliant idea to bring on a friend who has mastered the art of spooky. Today I’m thrilled to share a wonderfully insightful article written by the talented and imaginative Caryn Larrinaga.

Learning by Going

by Caryn Larrinaga

Table of Contents for Fey Sidhe

Many years ago (don’t ask me how many; I’m in denial), I had to put together a notebook of poetry for my high school creative writing class. Looking back, I’m a little in awe of myself. Not because of the quality of my poems—they were exactly the kind of thing you’d expect a lovestruck sixteen-year-old to be writing—but because I had the balls to put my own work next to the likes of e.e. Cummings and Theodore Roethke… and an awful lot of lyrics from Delerium’s Poem album. Fitting, right?

Cover of Fey Sidhe

Much as my own poems and the choice to name the collection “Fey Sidhe” make me cringe a little bit (I was obsessed with elves and fairies… okay, fine! Am obsessed with them), this hand-bound notebook is my favorite souvenir of high school. Teenaged Caryn, though a terrible poet herself, had pretty decent taste, and some of the pieces I chose to include had a lasting impact on me, especially the opening stanza of Roethe’s “Waking.”

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.

The Waking, by Theodore Roethke

I love those three lines, especially the last. I learn by going where I have to go. It’s similar to the “zen driving” idea Douglas Adams came up with in the Dirk Gently books (which I also love). The idea that we can have destinations in mind but not really know where we’re supposed to end up until we start taking the journey… it’s something that’s resonated with me as I’ve bumbled through my adult life, and especially as I’ve bumbled through my writing.

Some writers are super organized and plot their books thoroughly. I try to do that with everything I write. I chart out the beats, working backwards from the ending, and jot down a few sentences about what each scene needs to do for the story.

Then I start writing, and that’s when I really figure out where the story is going. Most of the time, I deviate from my plot a lot, especially in the meaty middle part of the book. With short stories, things weirdly go even more off the rails (you’d think fewer words would give me fewer opportunities to deviate from the plan, right?).

This combination of plotting and flying by the seat of your pants is lovingly referred to as “plotsing” in writerly circles, and for me, it makes the writing journey so much more fun. I don’t feel like any of the words I end up throwing away are wasted; they all gave me some much-needed experience and were opportunities to get to know myself a little bit better.

Writing, just like any art, is something you can’t get better at just by reading books and soaking up advice at conferences and conventions. In the end, you actually have to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start making words. It’s one of those things you can only learn as you go, putting your fear of failure aside as you grow and improve.

So plot… or don’t. Make plans… or don’t. Either way, you’ll learn by going (and writing) where you have to go.

Don’t let that twinkle in her eye fool you, Caryn’s got some deliciously dark stories hiding inside her.

About today’s guest author:

Caryn Larrinaga is an award-winning mystery, horror, and urban fantasy writer. Her debut novel, Donn’s Hill, was awarded the League of Utah Writers 2017 Silver Quill in the adult novel category and was a 2017 Dragon Award finalist.  

Watching scary movies through split fingers terrified Caryn as a child, and those nightmares inspire her to write now. Her 90-year-old house has a colorful history, and the creaking walls and narrow hallways send her running (never walking) up the stairs. Exploring her fears through writing makes Caryn feel a little less foolish for wanting a buddy to accompany her into the tool shed.

Caryn lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their clowder of cats. Visit www.carynlarrinaga.com to claim a free ebook and audiobook!

Connect with Caryn:

Be sure to check out the first book in the award-winning Soul Searchers Mysteries series, Donn’s Hill. I hear the sequel, Donn’s Shadow is due to come out the end of October – so much win!

About Donn’s Hill –

Mackenzie Clair needs a fresh start. The death of her father and a broken relationship rendered her old life unlivable. What better place to build a new one than Donn’s Hill, the most haunted town in America and her favorite childhood vacation spot?

But returning to Donn’s Hill awakens more than nostalgia. As memories resurface, so does a lost psychic ability to talk to the dead… a power the poltergeist haunting Mac’s apartment is eager to use. 

Aided by her new roommate—a spirited Tortoiseshell cat named Striker—and the ghost-hunting crew of the Soul Searchers, Mac struggles to control her newfound talents. She’d better get a handle on them fast, because someone in town is hiding a deadly secret. If Mac can’t divine the truth, Donn’s Hill will never be the same.

First in a new series, this cozy paranormal mystery was the 2017 winner of the League of Utah Writers Silver Quill award. “A genre-bending gem of a book, cozy meets horror meets cat fancier in a unique town of psychic tourism and ghostly secrets.” -Johnny Worthen, award winning author of THE FINGER TRAP, THE BRAND DEMAND and WHAT IMMORTAL HAND

Find Donn’s Hill, and Caryn’s other books, on Amazon!

Even better, if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, you can get this title for free!


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Interview with Irony Mitchell

Today’s author interview is brought to you by the mysterious and ever delightful Irony Mitchell, the letter Y, and a hot fudge sundae (because, why not?). While I know the secret identity of today’s guest, I’ve sworn a secret ice cream oath not to share. Let it be known that I’m a woman of my word.

Irony and I go back several years now, starting with my awkward childhood – no wait, that’s actual irony… Today’s guest and I go back several years and I’m thrilled to be able to get to know her alter ego better.

On to the interview!

We are thumbs up to go on this interview!
Photo by Katya Austin on Unsplash

First things first, a getting to know you question – What is the origin story of your unique name?

Thanks so much for interviewing me, I’m excited to virtually be here!

One of the most ironic things about this earth is that by going through all sorts of trials and enduring all sorts of wounds, we can come out stronger and better than we were before. To me, Irony is facing this soul-crushing world and finding hope, as well as the determination to smile and laugh your way through it. I don’t mean to sound flippant. When facing a personal apocalypse, I hope I can stare down the pain, square my shoulders, and boldly declare myself the victor. However, I also hope I’ll recognize the irony that is life and laugh my way to a happy ending.

What is your biggest dream and what are you doing to reach it?

How do you choose just one dream to the “biggest?” Writing wise, my biggest dream is to write something that touches someone’s life in some way. Whether that means they found an escape in reading my fiction or a connection with my non-fiction, I just want to be a source of positivity.

I think that’s why I am drawn to comedic writing. If I can put a smile or an eyeroll on your face, I’ve done my job.

Of all the different stories you’ve created, which one came from the weirdest idea, and what what it?

My Psychotic series came from not one, but two crazy ideas. First off, I wanted to write a story about a teenage girl who is the only one that can see the monsters that feed on her schoolmates. She sees invisible demons that are drawn to negative emotions, which are plentiful in her school.

Then, one day, I was having a conversation with someone about how intensely the smell of microwaved broccoli can hang on. At that moment, the tone of my psychotic series was born. I desperately wanted to write a story where I used the line “The monster hung on to me like the smell of microwaved broccoli, but I continued to fight.” So, I did. And now I make it a point to fill this series with as many crazy statements as I can. It’s one of the things I love most about these books.

If you could teach a new writer one thing, what would it be?

You will get rejections, from readers and agents alike, and that is OK. Even the most popular novels have haters, your book will be no different. Embrace the rejection and realize that it legitimizes you as an author. Getting to the point where people are able to judge your work means that you have made it through the trenches of un-finished novels. Congrats.

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 was writing a story in college that I ended up turning in to a short film for one of my university projects. In the story, one of the main settings was a dance hall. I made a sign for the dance hall that never made it in to the film because I was just messing around with how I wanted the logo to look. I did it on a scrap piece of huge cardstock, so it wasn’t anything special. But, somehow that logo ended up on my wall for years and I’ve carried it around with me. It reminds me of the first story that really pulled me in to the world of writing. Sometimes I think about that novel and wonder if I should revisit it . . .

But, since I rarely write in my writing space and just write wherever I feel like it, maybe I should say a bowl of ice cream? Creamy sugar spurs my creativity.

What’s next? What are you working on?

The latest installment of the Psychotic series (Psychotic: Embarrassed) just published this last week, and now I am working on the next (Psychotic: Revenge). Chariot, my main character, sees invisible monsters that feed on negative emotions. To make things even more awkward, she has a mega-crush on a boy that can see invisible angels. But, she isn’t the only girl at her school that has fallen head over heels for this guy. When the other girl brings a revenge demon into the school, will Chariot back down from her mega-crush or will she take a stand?

About today’s guest, Irony Mitchell

Mitchell spends a great deal of time exploring mythical worlds, telling groan-worthy jokes, and playing with the family’s imaginary golden retriever. As a child, Mitchell won a contest by writing a story that started with the main character throwing up. As an adult, Mitchell’s ideas haven’t gotten any better.

Mitchell believes that there should never be a rom without the com, and that clean comedy is one of the highest forms of art available to the human race.

Connect with Irony (Yes, I totally giggled at that too!)

Check out Irony’s Psychotic series starting with Psychotic: Not all monsters can be seen, here’s the blurb:

Seeing monsters doesn’t make you psychotic, does it?

For 16-year-old Chariot, seeing monsters is just another part of her high school experience. Unfortunately, no one else can see these demons that thrive on her classmates. It’s up to Chariot to help fight off the monsters. But, when no one else can see them, will she be branded: Psychotic?

Find it on Amazon today!


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Interview with Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Joining us today is one of my favorite indie press authors. Kathryn has taught at my local writing chapter meetings about the perks of being your own creative boss and also how to make the most of a small marketing budget. She’s made a name for herself in the Utah writing community and is amazingly friendly and generous with her time and talent.

On to the interview!

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Let’s kick things off with a getting to know you question. What are the three most unique things about you most people know, and one thing they don’t?

I love to read, take long walks on the beach, and enjoy interior decorating. One thing others may not know is that I just got hired on as a kindergarten teacher for American Preparatory Academy. I love children, but I never thought I’d be teaching. That goes to show you want a freelance writer can do at age 58!

How much of you ends up in your characters, are there certain traits that you tend to include?

That depends on the book. When I wrote “The Parables of Virginia Bean” – especially the first book in the series called, “Conquering Your Goliaths: A Parable of the Five Stones” much of my spiritual heart went into writing about the character. The journey she takes is much like my journey, and, from what I hear, many a reader relates to her story because it connects with their own.

Of the many books you’ve created, which one has been the most rewarding and why?

I have a new book coming out entitled, “Enlightened”. It’s a nonfiction book that speaks to scripture journaling and prayer. I have been on this particular journey for over 20 years and share my insights in connecting with God.

Tell us about your creative process. What does it take for you to create one of your books?

The creative process is always different. When I began “LightShade”, a science-fantasy for middle readers, it began as a prompt from my grandson. He wanted a ‘boy’ book, and previous to that time I’d only written the ‘girl’ variety. For this book, I had to do a little scientific research before beginning, and I found as I continued to write, that there were other opportunities to make the story real by doing even more research. I am usually a by the seat of my pants sort of writer or a “pantster”, but there are many times when I feel the need to research to make the plots I come up with plausible. With some research under my belt, I head forward, allowing the characters to sort of introduce themselves to me. I usually have a pretty good idea of the main character, but the others come as I write, sort of like a visit from new friends.

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?

The most interesting thing in my writing space is a cup with the words, “I Write, What’s Your Super Power?” We all have a superpower! It may be writing. And it might even be teaching kindergarten. I guess I’ll find out 😊

What’s next? What are you working on?

“Enlightened: My Personal Journey with Christ Through Scripture Journaling” will be released in September. The second book in The Space Adventures of Aaden Prescott series, “LightDescending”, will be out in the fall of this year. I also have a third book in the Brianne James Mystery series, “Slipped Up,” coming out next year. With my now extra busy schedule, these books should keep me ahead of the game until I get to another new book during the summer. Still wondering what that will be.

About today’s guest:

Kathryn is a lover of words and a bearer of mood swings. When she is feeling the need to inspire, she writes a Christian fiction book. If a mystery is waiting to be uncovered, she finds it. If something otherworldly is finding its way through her fingertips, she travels to it.

Kathryn has been a reader since she was a young child. Although she took classes in writing as a teen, it wasn’t something she really thought would become her career until she was married. And even then, it took a few more years for something worthy enough to publish to manifest itself.

Kathryn’s first book was published in 2002. Since then, many other books have found their way out of her head depending on the sort of day she is having. Kathryn is a journalist, a teacher, a mentor, an editor, a publisher, and a marketer.

Her greatest joy, other than writing her next book, is meeting with readers and authors who enjoy the craft of writing as much as she does.

Connect with Kathryn:

Did you know Kathryn can help you fulfill your dream of being published? If you’d like to know more, be sure to head over to her business website at: Ideacreationspress.com!

Excerpt from LightShade

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard E. Cohen

Beginning of the End

You’ll probably hate me but I don’t care. Most people on Earth hate me already, and if you’re reading this book you are one of the few who escaped. Wait, that can’t be right. I wrote this book long after the Earth was hit.

But I’m getting a head of myself.

It all started with the newscast. I don’t usually listen to the news, but there it was that day like fire. My Mom was making dinner and I was playing with Lego’s. If you remember how Lego’s used to be, you’ll be surprised that I heard anything, but that day, that day I’ll never forget, we were told the horrifying truth.

Mercury was on its way to Earth. Not to visit, if you get my drift, but to crash land. At first, I laughed it off, but then I remembered it wasn’t April Fool’s Day. It was August 1. It was hotter outside than the heater running, or fire lighting up a swimming pool.  If I told you I wasn’t scared, I’d be lying.

Mom hadn’t heard it. But I blinked at the projected flat screen in shock. Sure enough, the words repeated themselves. “Prepare yourselves” the man said. He had fake hair on the top of his head to look real and a frown on his face that was so wide I knew that if he could be tipped upside down, the smile I’d get would be as big as anyone would give if they’d received what they wanted for Christmas.

Except – this wasn’t Christmas. It felt like the stuff I’d learned in Sunday school about the Earth ending and the apocalypse. Except, it wasn’t that, was it?

I dropped the Lego I was holding. It was green. I still remember the color because of what happened afterwards. If you don’t believe in little green men, you should.  And you should believe in UFOs, patches in the grass in the shape of circles, and the movie ET.

But I’m forgetting already.

My Mom looked at me in shock. “What?” she asked, even though I’d told her the truth as calmly as possible. My hands were shaking, but I hid them in my jean pockets so she wouldn’t know the complete truth.

Some things are better for a mom not to know.

So, I told her again.

She laughed.

I got mad.

She laughed harder. And then she looked into my eyes. Really looked, you know the way moms do when they think their boy has messed up or told a lie to their brother. I don’t have a brother, but I know these things.

She said, “Really, Aaden.”

I’d been told about my ‘imagination’ since the time I knew what people were saying. And I knew something else; something so terrible, that, up until that night and the newscast, I thought was the most horrifying thing I would ever hear.

“Aaden… really. What fire are you going to start now?”

I’d been told about the meaning of my name for years, and now that I was ten, I was beyond tired of hearing it. I suppose you want to know what it means, as if you really care, but maybe it will be of some interest to you after you hear what the newscaster told us next. For, after I got Mom to leave the kitchen and come into the living room – which took some effort I can tell you – she stood with her mouth open, as if I’d told her I was going to leave home or something.

But then again, we were all going to have to leave home – and soon – or we’d be scorched.

So, here it is. Two years ago, when I was bored and really had to know the truth for myself, I went to Mom’s computer, and put in the spoken password I wasn’t supposed to know.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. “Someone like fire,” the computer said.

I looked into my Mom’s eyes now, and the television was still blaring the news of Mercury. We had only two weeks to find safety.

Find this and all of Kathryn’s books on Amazon.

Do you love audiobooks? Kathryn has tons of them! Go find out more on Audible.


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Interview with Scott E. Tarbet

One of the first friends I made in the writing and authoring world was Scott E. Tarbet. He and I were both in the Toll of Another Bell fantasy anthology through Xchyler Publishing and both local Utah authors – and we were also in the same chapter of League of Utah Writers for several years. So it goes without saying that we go back a while.

I was thrilled when Scott agreed to an interview because I know he’s led quite the interesting life. From adventuring abroad, to creating gripping stories, Scott’s got a little of everything.

On to the interview!

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

The best place to start is a question to get to know you better. Tell us a little about yourself, including the craziest thing you’ve ever done on a dare.

I have bombed straight down icy double black diamonds, free-climbed vertical cliffs, free-dived to fifty feet to take a ten-pound lobster away from a moray eel. I have charged into burning buildings and torn apart burning vehicles, run marathons, survived being marooned on a deserted seacoast. I have peered down into the glowing containment pool of a nuclear generating station and been stranded without light deep in a limestone cave rapidly filling with water. I have been attacked and robbed at gunpoint, faced down assault weapon wielding Mexican Federales while armed with nothing but righteous zeal and the chutzpa of youth. I have launched three businesses and have failed at two. AND I have published my literary offspring out into the cold, cruel world. In short, I don’t wait for someone to challenge me to perpetrate a craziness. I just do it.

As a creative person, what are your three greatest strengths?

  1. Fearlessness. (See above.)
  2. Craft. I have always been a storyteller, since before I could read or write. I love to read and re-read the literary masters and masterpieces, in every storytelling genre, taking careful note of how they make their stories come alive. In short, I am a student of the craft. Someday I hope to achieve mastery. If I write out every novel in my current writer’s notebook, I should accomplish that sometime before I’m a hundred and twenty.
  3. Love. My characters are my children and my friends. I truly believe no artist can adequately represent something they do not understand at a profound, granular level. Those who try are instantly revealed as frauds to the discerning reader or viewer. And that understanding usually shines through as unmistakable love. Or its polar opposite.

Of all the different projects you’ve worked on, either with the opera, writing, or one of your other many interesting pursuits, what experience has changed you the most?

No other experience has shaken me as profoundly as standing onstage as Otto Frank, father of Ann, at the opening of “The Diary of Ann Frank.” A representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center had just finished an hour-long multi-media presentation on the Holocaust. The images of the death camps were so burned into my soul that I had a difficult time even drawing breath.

At the opening curtain, Otto reenters the family’s attic grotto hiding place after surviving the Nazi death camps and the extermination of his family and friends. As he enters the empty stage a bell slowly tolls six times, once for each of the million Jews killed in the Holocaust. I felt each toll pound through my own brain as if I were being struck a felling blow. I, and a good share of the audience, wept like heartbroken children as the seconds stretched into minutes. I hope never to be so affected again by another piece of art.

In your most recent novel release, Dragon Moon, who was your favorite character and what part of writing it was your biggest challenge?

Dragon Moon was a high concept: the U.S. abandoning the capability to reach the moon and Communist China publicly announcing their intention to turn it into a military base can only turn out badly, right? I believed in the premise. I still believe in it. It’s happening before our eyes.

Bringing that story to life meant creating two main characters that I truly loved, into whom I poured every good impulse that I could imagine. One was a reluctant Chinese-American Air Force intelligence officer, Mu Guiying, manipulated into a world of violence and intrigue she never wanted. The other was a star-gazing teenage boy, Mason Young, obsessed with saving the world by finding and stopping the next extinction-level asteroid. Together they represent so much of the ideal for me that I dedicated the novel “To those who look up and out, and to those who guard their backs while they do it.”

The biggest challenge of writing the book was being humble enough to give up a character whom I really loved to despise, who was Mason’s girlfriend in the first draft. She was deliciously self-centered and snarky in a delightfully Mean Girls sort of way, but my editor pointed out that she was taking up a lot of word count that more rightly went into developing the other threads of the story. But she’ll always have a special place in my “characters I love to hate” pantheon.

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?

My great-grandfather Enoch Cornia’s missionary hymnal, no bigger than the palm of my hand, dated from his mission in 1891. It really should be in a shadow box. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll do that next . . . month . . . maybe . . .

What’s next? What are you working on?

I always work on multiples at the same time. I literally have three documents open at any given time. If I start to slow down on one, meaning that I have to give it some more thought before proceeding, I switch to another. While I dump out the stuff that is already thought through in another piece, the first one marinades. Then I jump back to it. I’m actually more productive doing it that way rather than staring at the screen while my brain chews like a puppy with a new slipper.

So the next things are:

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk 2: Perils of Pauline. The genius young artificer heroine of the first book is after her new replacement legs, but a meddlesome time traveler has other ideas of where—and when—she should go next. Changing history once is not enough.
  2. Battles of the Stripling Warriors. The iconic young warriors, the Sons of Helaman from the Book of Mormon, return in the second in the series that began with Rise of the Stripling Warriors, which I hope against hope will get out of editing and onto the shelves before the end of 2019.
  3. The Thousand. (working title) A self-aware .2c starship is on a mission thousands of years in duration, to reach thirteen new worlds and choose the right candidates from among the 1,000 best and brightest minds, the cream of humanity that were digitally stored when the race was extinguished. Brigham, the ship’s cantankerous AI, will print them strong young bodies, implant their memories, seed the new colony, and move on. But as Brigham approaches the thirteenth and final planet, s/he has made a discovery that will change the mission, and the fate of the human race, forever.
From great books to amazing Texas style BBQ, Scott Tarbet really can do it all.

About today’s guest –

Scott Tarbet’s speculative fiction stories have garnered multiple awards, critical acclaim, and entertain a burgeoning fanbase. He writes in several genres, including Steampunk, fantasy, paranormal, techno-thriller, and historical fiction.

When he is not submerged in one of his created worlds, which he finds nearly as fascinating as the real one, he sings opera professionally and slow-smokes thousands of pounds of authentic Texas-style barbeque. He was married in full Elizabethan regalia, loves Steampunk and cosplay conventions of all flavors. He makes his home in the mountains of Utah.

Follow his writing adventures:

About Scott’s book Dragon Moon –

A new space race explodes into violence when China quietly sets its sights on the Moon. Now, an unlikely team of US Navy SEALs, Russian Spetsnaz, and a Chinese-American agent have one chance to stop the activation of China’s powerful new weapon before all hope is lost. The cost of failure: worldwide Chinese empire.

Find it on Amazon!


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.

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