Back at the beginning of summer I attended a fun library kick off program put on by the wonderful people of the Tremonton Library. Tremonton is a small town with a huge heart and it shows in the kindness and friendship of the families who came to enjoy the event. Tara and I shared an author signing table where we chatted and shared our writing journeys with each other.
We had such a great time that I knew she would be a wonderful choice to share something with the readers here on my blog.
A Love Letter to the Creative Process
When Jodi invited me to be a guest on her site, she suggested some options, like sharing an article about creativity, and then she added, “Like a love letter to the creative process.” That phrase grabbed me. I jotted it down and whether Jodi meant for me to take the phrase literally or not, in the end I did. This is my love letter to the creative process. Thanks, Jodi, for this perspective. I enjoyed connecting with my writing in this way.
I’ve been away for a bit, but I
miss you. A lot.
You’ve been a friend.
At times a very good friend, at
other times a nuisance, but beloved friend.
In our younger days, you would
wake me in my sleep. 4 am. 3 am. 2 am. Whatever it took. Beckoning me to flip
on a desk lamp, grab a notepad or fire up the laptop, and let the words pour
out as fast as they could fly. Special early mornings, tender late nights, just
you and me, pouring over words, finding magic swirling around us, dancing with
us, seeping into a reality that belonged in another time and place but had
invited us in. Together, we heard the protagonist speak, the conflict grow, the
setting materialize. Characters exposed motives. Story took on movement. Action
My little office space, or dining
room table, or soft sofa radiated with life. Rich purpose swirled around me. Carols
of eager joy pulsed through my veins. I miss that. I miss you.
From age five, when I learned
that books came from people, I wanted to be one of those people. I wanted to be
first in line when you were ready to share a story. I wanted to hear it first,
watch its plot unfold around me, taste the life of characters, of this other
realm through you.
You indulged me. By fifth grade,
when my child-authored book bulked out in pages, refusing to be restrained by
the comb binding that the other students’ dozen pages fit so nicely within, others
saw the passion inside me too. I told them I would be an author someday. They
believed me. You believed me. You granted me courage to fight the fight to do
this. To work, hard, harder than my youthful wishes understood.
I fought, I worked, I learned, I
lost, I found, I rejoiced, I sorrowed, I won, I published. I found readers, I
found a voice, I found purpose swirling furiously within me. With a deep
hunger, I wanted to share with others the wonders from you and your stories.
Dear Muse, where did it go? Life
came. Responsibilities. Other jobs. Competing professions. Success in other
ways. Better financial rewards. Other purpose. Other rewards. Reality. Harsh.
Cruel. Critics. Disappointment. A changing industry. No longer fun. Losing the
passion. Losing me.
How do we reunite again?
Do you find me? Do you call me up
again in the middle of the night and see if I will come play again?
Do I find you? Do I pound at the
keyboard, over and over again, searching for you in the words, trying to see
where your shadow might be?
And if we find each other again,
will the magic return? Like first love, the youthful innocence that turns the
passion into an addiction? Where I think of you ever waking moment? Where I
hunger to be with you again?
Or, is it now mature love? More
of a tempered wisdom, a comfortable friend, one who knows me so well, and I too
have come to better understand you? Where we can be together, and know how the
day will go. The highs, the lows, my weaknesses, our combined limitations. Yet,
there would also be our love. Our deepening love, an acceptance of continuous
change, of growth, of becoming.
Could we unite again? Embark on a
journey together once more? If I left my fears of a final destination, and
turned my focus on the present moments of creating, would you come?
I want those moments again. When
in the stillness of the world around me, you allow me to see and pen a scene
that is untouched by another. Those initial gasps of wonder. The first awe of
beauty. A moment with you, when I see something so remarkable about human
nature to be shared in a way that only fiction provides. Then eagerness comes,
followed by anticipation. The hope burning inside me of a reader someday, curled
up in bed, or on the couch, or during a paused moment of a vacation, and we
will connect. That breathless moment when fiction speaks to a soul, when reader,
writer, and you, connect together. A touch with humanity.
I want that moment again!
In its purest form. In all it’s
beauty. Without the thorns of the world, just you, me, and a reader, together
again, learning together, rejoicing together, crying together, loving together,
being better people together.
It’s time to find you again, dear
I look forward to our reunion.
Much deep appreciation and love,
About today’s featured guest:
TARA C. ALLRED is an award-winning author, instructional designer, and educator. She has been recognized as a California Scholar of the Arts for Creative Writing and is a recipient of the Howey Awards for Best Adult Book and Best Adult Author. She lives in Utah with her husband.
Her published works include Sanders’ Starfish, UnAuthored Letters, Helping Helper and The Other Side of Quiet, a Kindle Book Award Finalist and Whitney Award Winner.
Sign up for Tara C. Allred’s newsletter and receive SANDERS’ STARFISH, the first book in the John Sanders series for free. Then follow it up with the award-winning UNAUTHORED LETTERS, the second book in the series.
About Sanders’ Starfish:
Dr. John Sanders is about to begin his career as a clinical psychologist. Full of optimism, he believes he can make a difference and is eager to provide hope to a group the world has deemed hopeless. Yet in John’s quest to offer those in his care a second chance, he embarks on his own journey of self-discovery. In his search, clear answers become scrambled confusion while the unimaginable truth is trapped in a complex web.
About UnAuthored Letters:
“Allred shows excellent insight into the psychological interactions of her characters in this gripping mystery of greed and redemption.” – ForeWord Clarion Reviews
Dr. John Sanders has given Rebecca Brownell a new chance at life. After an isolated childhood, an abused adolescence, and an institutionalized existence, Rebecca is finally free to conquer her demons and build a promising life.
However, just as it appears Rebecca has achieved her dreams, eerily personal letters begin arriving in the mail. Letters sent from an unidentified source who knows far more about her past than anyone should. Letters which question and threaten Rebecca’s sanity.
UnAuthored Letters is the inspiring tale of a woman’s troubled past, a man’s quest to protect her, and their fight against a mysterious foe. It’s a story of trust strained by illness, love tried by lies, and promises terrorized by illusive danger.
Winner of the Howeys 2014 Best Adult Book & 2014 Best Adult Author Winner of The Blot Writing Contest
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.
Today’s guest is no stranger to magic. In fact, he’s one of those people whom I suspect might have a dose of actual real magic hiding inside him. Not only does he create magic with the stories and worlds in his books, he also has performed stage magic professionally. Does he have a trick or two up his sleeve? Absolutely.
Michael is here to day to share some of that magic with us and I’m super excited to have him.
Welcome to my blog, Michael. Glad to have you here. To get started why don’t you tell us a little about yourself. What’s the most interesting thing that most people don’t know about you?
Hello Jodi and all your excellent Jodians! It’s great to be
here! To answer your first question, I’ve been around the block a few times and
also the neighboring block and at least a small middle-America town’s worth of
blocks along with a few in South America and one or two particularly
continental and historic blocks in Europe. I guess that means I have gathered a
lot of different experiences, which is great as a writer. I can “write what I
know” on a fairly substantial number of topics. That’s true of most writers,
though, who make it out of the house once in a while and pay attention.
Probably the most interesting thing that many people don’t know about me
is—hold on—I can show you. Do you have an ordinary object? Something you don’t
need to get back? Ooo. How about that ring on your finger? Can I borrow that
for just a minute? Platinum and diamonds, you say? Wow, Jodi. That’s going to
keep your attention then. Ok. If you could just release the death grip you have
on that for me. Great. Watch as I place the ring here in the middle of the
table. I’m going to cover the ring with this napkin. Look. My hands are empty
now. You see the shape of the ring under the napkin? Swell. Go ahead and say
the word “Abracadabra” and whip the napkin away as fast as you can. Can you do
that? All right. Wait until you count to three. Not that it will make the trick
work any better, but three seconds will give me enough time to go stand over
there where it’s safe. Okay. Hold the corner of the napkin and one, two, three!
Are you okay there, Jodi? Yeah. I know. Most people don’t
expect to see a full-grown tiger appear on top of their kitchen table. So, if
you haven’t guessed, I worked as a professional magician for ten years or so.
That’s something I hint at but most people don’t know. So—oh—watch out there.
Yeah. Don’t touch his tail or anything. That tiger is faster than you are. No. You’ll
be fine as long as you don’t make any sudden moves. What’s that? Oh no. Thanks.
I’ll just stay over here by the door. You can lob those questions over the
tiger there and I’ll answer them.
Those who know you as an author are
very familiar with your distinct jacket, what’s the story behind it?
I have a few jackets that nobody would wear on a daily
basis. They’re part of my brand, which you’ll find a lot of authors worried
about. Mostly because their publishers tell them to worry about it. I do like
to look distinctive and, to be honest, it’s part marketing, part me wanting to
stand out from the crowd a little. The jackets also help me feel confident and
“authorial” in public. While I have been a performer onstage, feeling
completely at ease in the midst of people doesn’t come easy. Not that I want to
hermit up and become a recluse. Meeting with fans is really a pleasure and I
love talking about writing and stories with readers. Wearing the jacket helps
me feel the part in the same way that magicians and actors have a public
persona and wear clothes that fit how they want to be seen. Being an author is
the closest thing to who I really am as a person on the inside and there’s a
certain vulnerability that comes along with being real that way in front of
The jacket also gives me a chance to joke around. At one
time, I’d tell people that the jacket was made from my grandmother’s curtains,
because I like the brocade fabrics best. Now, however, I like to wait for
someone to comment on the jacket. Then I say, “Well, thank you. There are large
pieces missing from my grandmother’s couch.” That’s a better joke because I can
follow up with, “The nice part is I keep finding spare change and hard candy in
the pockets.” If you catch me at the right time, I’ll even pull a butterscotch
out of the pocket and give it to whoever I’m talking to. The jackets just help
me interact with people in a way that I hope they find disarming and
approachable. Readers are the best sort of people!
You have a brand new, exciting sci-fi novel coming out
(Yay!) Tell us about it!
Ah, yes! Wow! You’re very insightful. Are you a psychic
perhaps? I haven’t told anyone about that project yet, but here you are,
plucking thoughts out of my mind like a professional.
I have written some short stories in the sci-fi genre, but
all my novels so far have been fantasy. My publisher, Future House, was
contacted by a company that develops board games and computer games. They have
a super fun interactive card game called Master of Wills. The game is
set in a futuristic city with a number of opposing factions. Each faction has
distinct criteria that define their approach to winning and a lot of the action
centers on recruiting your opponent’s characters to join your side. There are a
whole bunch of different characters and various game mechanics and it was loads
of fun to develop a novel featuring the characters and settings from the game.
The title is Hollowfall, and I’ll leave it to readers to find out what
the title means. The game developer is Stormcrest, Inc. and I owe a big thanks
to Randy and Josh for letting me play in their sandbox. I’m working on the
final chapters of the novel and Future House has the title slated for
publication early in 2020.
Give me a sec here, Jodi. I’m going to check your fridge.
You should probably stay where you are. Oh good. Ribeye steaks. I’m going to
toss one of these babies to the tiger there. Wow. I’m not even sure he chewed
that. Better give him the other one just to be safe. There. That will keep him
busy for a minute. Next question?
Of all the characters you’ve written, which one is most
like you? Was it intentional?
Oh that’s an easy one. Everyone who knows me and reads my
novels gives me the answer. The main character in Got Luck and Got
Hope is a smart-aleck goofball with a big heart and, apparently, so am I. We
aren’t exactly alike. He’s a lot more skilled than I am and far better looking,
but we both have incredible magic powers and we are both deeply in love with
tall, hot brunettes. I think he’d appreciate the tiger.
I’ve lost count of how many times people have read one of
the novels and tracked me down to tell me they can hear my voice. Especially
when Goethe tells a joke. And, they tell me, the cornier the joke, the more
they hear my voice telling it. Not sure what they mean by that, so I’m taking it
as a compliment.
Was it intentional? More like unavoidable, I think, because
I constantly have unlikely situations and funny things to say and “Got”
provides an outlet. He’s perhaps a fictionalized version of me who is both an
improvement and more flawed. When he’s faced with a challenge, the actions he
takes feel most right when he does what I would do if I were in his situation.
I know that sounds self-serving, but he isn’t perfect either. He makes mistakes
like I do, and he has to learn, and he’s kind of a jerk sometimes, especially
with people who are behaving badly. Once in a while, he pulls off a trick that
magicians would recognize. To put it another way, when Got needs to do
something, I feel the scenes are more consistent to write and more authentic
when he does whatever I think I could do, assuming I were as well-trained and
competent as him.
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?
Hey, Jodi. That blood is from the steak, right? It’s not
yours? Ok good.
So, I’ve used the same little laptop computer to write
pretty much everything I’ve published so far. I have written all over the place
so my writing space is everywhere. Most often, however, I’m at home on the
couch with my feet up. Next to me, chilling out on the floor, is my eighteen-month-old.
140-pound writing buddy. One brown eye and one blue eye. Two extra toes.
Really, it’s my daughter’s fault. She wanted a little
sister. Or brother. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, she
wanted a dog. So we have Appa. He’s a St. Bernese, which is the result of
breeding a Bernese Mountain Dog with a St. Bernard and it’s the next best thing
to a flying bison. We got him because he’s a handsome boy and always up for an
adventure. We really didn’t think about it much deeper than that until the
family we bought him from started laughing. They were first to realize the
Peter Pan connection. The Darling family has a St. Bernard. Funny, right? Now
we pretend like it was all part of a marketing masterplan and nobody knows any
different. Well, except you and your Jodians.
And he actually helps me write as well. One day I looked at
him with his tongue lolling out and him breathing in short bursts and I asked,
“Do you want the shirt that goes with those pants?” He didn’t want the shirt,
but the line made my family laugh and it’s now in a story.
What’s next? What are you working on?
Book three of The Behindbeyond series, Got Lost, is
set to debut in early September, so we’re going hard at final edits for that
one. The Hollowfall novel comes after that. Then I have a couple of new
novels in various stages of development along with the next book in the series.
Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter.
By Michael Darling
The girl with the sapphire eyes stood like a statue against the stones of the wall. She was alone on the far side of the room but didn’t seem to be lonely, staring straight ahead. Her feet were bare and filthy. Her dress was torn and frayed like she’d been chased by dogs and almost caught.
I tapped Faidh on the shoulder. Side-by-side we stood patiently in front of an altar. The hall around us had been decorated for a wedding. The wedding was scheduled for the following day. Realistically, it was only fun because I was here with the woman I loved.
Faidh turned in response to my touch. The hall was warm and her hair was pulled up off her neck. She was breathtaking enough to be the bride, although she wasn’t. I pointed behind us.
“See that girl over there?” I whispered.
Faidh looked, then nodded. “She has beautiful eyes. A little young to be out with no escort.”
“She’s been standing there for a while, and she hasn’t moved a muscle.”
Faidh kept looking. Then, “Are you sure?”
“I’m not even sure she’s breathing.” I replied. “She’s not watching anything going on. Or anybody. Just staring.”
Faidh looked some more. “Her clothes are a mess.”
“Someone here should know her, right?” The group in our rehearsal party wasn’t very large. Only ten or so people, and I was acquainted with most of them. As far as I knew, none of them had a teenage daughter. The girl was shivering now. She was a hundred yards away, give or take, but my eyes were better than most and I could tell. “There’s something wrong.”
“The groom’s place will be closer to the end of the altar, sire.” A hand on my elbow demanded my attention, forcing me to look away from the girl.
Bromach, my valet, had the difficult and ever-thankless job of keeping me from embarrassing myself in princely situations. I moved to stand in the spot where he wanted me. The view from the altar was spectacular, looking out over the cliff to a forest far below and gray-blue clouds in the morning sky.
“Lady Faidh, thy place is here.” Bromach pointed again.
Faidh nodded and stepped to the corner of the altar opposite me. She caught my eye and winked. I tried to wink back but I’d never successfully disconnected whatever link existed between my eyelids and only managed an awkward blink that also twisted my mouth oddly.
The ladies-in-waiting behind Faidh smiled shyly at me as Bromach guided them to their places. I nodded with a smile. Over the past hour, I’m afraid I’d given them rude nicknames. The lady nearest Faidh had decided to resurrect the bustle, but it didn’t quite fit her frame and she was constantly hitching it up and adjusting it, which seemed to give her derriere a rebellious independence. The second lady, to whom I was apparently related closely, had a pallor fairytale writers would call “milky,” and was so pale that the morning sun reflecting off her face was like a searchlight. Or a bat signal. The third had taken a nearly fatal blow from puberty landing on her all at once, instead of spread over the course of a few normal, socially-awkward years. Her acne was closer to road rash.
Thusly, I had dubbed them Creeping Booty, So White, and Ziterella.
Biting my lips for the purpose of smirk control, I chided myself at the same time. They were very nice girls. Polite and graceful. I was only here out of duty and it was wrong of me to make my own fun while I was stuck here.
Yet, their nicknames remained locked in my dark thoughts.
My gaze strayed back to statue girl. The color of her eyes was that deep blue shade of an ocean sky at dusk. Each eye appeared to have a small star twinkling with its own light. She stared at an empty space six feet above the floor. Her hands clenched at her sides as if she were carrying invisible buckets of water. She was shivering harder now. Quivering. Pent-up energy, perhaps, from standing stock still for so long.
Bromach continued to direct the rehearsal, ordering people around, sighing when he wasn’t happy and nodding to himself when he was. He looked to be in his element, running the show in the delicately appointed wedding hall filled with fresh flowers and lace.
Torn between duty and curiosity, I turned back to Faidh for distraction. “Do you wish our wedding had been like this? With all the pretty decorations and food and people? And a church only slightly less modest than Westminster Abbey?”
Faidh looked around, taking in the carved pillars and the crystalline ceiling, made entirely of faceted glass. She shook her head. “We got married under a cherry tree that never ceases to bloom. What could be prettier than that?”
“I’m glad our wedding was quick. It didn’t take a whole week like this one,” I replied.
“Our wedding was so quick, it ended before we knew it had begun.” Faidh laughed.
Curiosity won out. Before I’d taken three steps in the girl’s direction, Bromach called after me. “Sire! Sire? Where goest thou?” He sounded borderline horrified that I was abandoning my post. “Prince Luck! Please!”
Make that full-on horrified.
Halfway to the girl, I paused to look back. “Hang on, Bromach. I’ll just be a minute.”
He sighed. “Thy cousin and thy father will be most displeased.”
“One minute,” I repeated.
Bromach watched me with impatience and pickleface in equal measure. When he saw where I was going he marched in the girl’s direction, determined to get to her before I did. Maybe he was thinking he could get me back to my post if he got rid of her. It was hard for me to be critical. Bromach took his work seriously and his attention to detail meant I owed him my life.
With Bromach ahead of me, I said, “There’s something going on with her. She’s been standing like a statue for half an hour. Maybe longer.”
Bromach slowed at my words and I caught up to him.
We stared at the girl. She stared past us. Standing at arm’s length, I could see she was maybe thirteen years old. No older.
A long moment passed. “She’s mortal,” Bromach said.
She was also Stained.
At some point, the girl had been touched by magic, and the magic had marked her. A shudder shoveled electricity down my spine. Mortals with Stains didn’t often live long. I checked the pattern. It had squarish sections with little points like tridents coming out of them. I’d never seen this particular Stain before. It was subtle, subdued, and almost hypnotic to watch as the wide band of translucent light turned slowly around the girl’s torso.
Well, time has really flown Jodi! By the way, if people ask, only you and I will know if the tiger is real or simply an illusion. Have fun with that. What is definitely real is how much fun I had chatting with you!
You don’t happen to have a ball of wool around here, do you?
About the size of a beach ball? That would be a—no? All right then. Thanks
again for inviting me!
#1 Amazon bestselling author Michael Darling has worked as a butcher, a librarian, and a magician. Not all at the same time. He nests in the exquisitely beautiful Rocky Mountains with his equally breathtaking wife, their normal-if-you-don’t-look-too-close children, and a disturbingly large St. Bernese dog that looks like he stepped out of Peter Pan and is probably a furry-faced attempt to extend the Darling brand. Michael’s award-winning fantasy and science-fiction stories are frequently featured in anthologies. His first novel, Got Luck, was published in 2016 and the sequel, Got Hope, in 2017. Book three of the series, Got Lost, will be released in September 2019. Hot on its heels will be Michael’s first science-fiction novel, scheduled to debut in early 2020. Based on the popular computer and board game, Master of Wills, the novel is titled Hollowfall. Michael loves to meet people, both virtually and in real life, and he can be found online through your favorite culturally-accepted, stalker-approved social media site.
Be sure to check out Michael’s Tales of the Behindbeyond series, and his other works, over on Amazon!
About Tales of the Behindbeyond:
Police-officer-turned-private-investigator Goethe “Got” Luck is known for rolling with the punches and never taking anything too seriously. When he picks up a seemingly dead-end murder case, his life begins to take a crazy turn. Shot at, chased by people he has never met, and attacked by an invisible liondog, Got quickly learns that there is more to this world than meets the eye.
He discovers the Fae. The Eternals. They who dwell in the Behindbeyond. Once, they ruled over ancient realms, but over the centuries, their power dwindled. Now someone wants to restore their rule and subjugate humankind. All it will cost is thousands of human lives.
The clock is ticking. Getting the world out of this one will take a couple friends, more than a few well-placed insults, and a whole lot of Luck.
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.