Interview with C Michelle Jefferies

Creatives attract other creatives like the last cheerios in a bowl of milk. Today’s creative, C. Michelle Jefferies, redefines what it means to incorporate creativity into her own life by pursuing everything that sparks her interest – from writing assassin fiction to hand dying meditation wraps.

Michelle and I met at a writing retreat years ago and became fast friends over talk of yoga and the best ways to kill people in fiction. While we don’t see each other often, it’s a real treat to spend time together. Nowadays, we tend to cross paths while teaching at different writing conferences.

Michelle’s dream – Owning a creative space with room for all her creative outlets and yoga. (Photo by Dmitry Kotov on Unsplash)

On to the interview!

First, a getting to know you question. If you had one million dollars and 24 hours to enjoy it, what would you do with it? (and why?)

I would buy a piece of land, with lots of room for gardens, trees and a pond to do paddle board yoga in. And hire someone to build my dream house, with a dye/workroom and retreat space for people to come and do conferences and retreats. I would love a place that I could dye and make stuff in that could be cleaned with a hose and mop. Instead of my kitchen. 🙂

You are perhaps one of the most chaotically creative people I’ve ever met. What are three creative things you do that most people don’t know about?

Hehehehehehe, how appropriate that title is.(chaotically creative) Can I use it for my business cards? [Yes! Go for it.] Well, I have a lot of passions. And I imagine most everyone knows I love dye, soap making, and book binding. But probably not that I have been looking at making shoes for a while. Or that I have sewn clothes and knitted for years. And I love hand building ceramics since high school. Or that I have become obsessed with growing certain plants in my flower bed.

I think the best way to describe me is that I am a maker. I see things and either want to make them for myself, or I get this desire to deconstruct the process to understand it and do it myself. I spent last fall studying what plants in my area I can make paper from, and how to make paper and cotton thread. Or that I’ve researched how to take an animal hide and make rawhide and leather. Or to use the hooves to make glue. This week is ink making week. Next week is paper making. I’m fascinated with process. (You should see my office! It’s like the (craft supply) room of requirement in Harry Potter!)

My goal this summer is to make a book from scratch. From the paper inside to the leather and rawhide thread for binding it. I’ve even researched making my own needles for sewing it. As well as the ink and dip pens to write in it. (and charcoal pencils, oil paints, water color paints, paintbrushes, etc.)

What has been your favorite project/series to work on and why?

Project wise my favorite non writing thing is dye work. I love taking blank white fabric and making it colorful. I just finished gathering all the supplies I need to do Shibori and Indigo dying like the Japanese artists do.

Writing wise I have to say my first series (Chrysalis series, Latent, Ascension, Interlude, Convergence, and Catalyst) is my favorite. It was my first real project and the first time I ever experienced those writing milestones, creating characters, finishing a draft, getting published and then finishing the series. I love all of my work, but Noble’s story is my favorite.

I have a few non-fiction books that I have produced that I am quite happy with as well. I have two how-to write books, one on structure and master chapter outline, one on writing series. I am working on a third how-to book on series bibles.

And I have two books written for middle grade age children 8-12 that teach manners in a fun way. They’re called Enchanted Etiquette, and Dragon Decorum.

During the course of all your writing and teaching what’s the funniest/most amazing/inspirational experience you’ve encountered?

I’ll have to go with amazing, I was teaching my structure class at a conference and as I started to teach the head editor of a big Utah publishing house came in and sat on the front row. I noticed them and kept teaching even though my heart rate had probably doubled. After that class they stopped me in the hallway and, in front of some of the conference organizers told me how much they enjoyed my class and wanted a copy of the slides to show their authors who struggle with structure. I was definitely flattered. That was the day I learned that I knew my “stuff” and that I was worthy of teaching it.

What’s the most interesting item you keep in your writing space?

After standing in my office for at least 15 minutes, (I have a lot of strange things in there) I would have to say my musical instruments especially because I am not musical at all. Yeah, definitely my drums and pentatonic flutes. Not traditional western drum set but hand- made drums of wood and rawhide. Hand carved wooden flutes tied with leather. (and a very cool western made “ocean drum” that I found at a thrift store.)

What’s next? What are you working on?

I am working on two series. I switch between them when I get blocked or need a break.

One is Storm Compass, a YA coming of age adventure about a boy who is born a nobody and how he just happens to save the world.

The other is my Trinity Operations series, It is about a group of people who organize and fight the powers that be, facing amazing odds against them to do so.

I am hoping to get these done by the end of this year to release this next year and the next.


About today’s guest:

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow. To manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.

Connect with Michelle:

Check out Michelle’s Ashes Series –

Description of Descending, book #1 in the Ashes series:

All he wants is to fly.

Ashby Standing has it all planned out. Prove his ability to captain a starship in the simulator. Then enter the Star Captain Academy a year early skipping another hellish year of being bullied at school.

When a new street drug proves fatal, taking the life of Elija’s son Nicolai. Noble has no choice but to step back into his role as an agent for Trinity. In spite of his age and his other duties. Including coordinating a twenty year celebration for the colonization of Caledonia.

After losing Arial, Lyris is hyper focused on making sure all of her children are safe nd protected. Even if it skirts what is legal or moral.

Everything converges into a complicated mess as moral obligations, desires, and ego’s battle for dominance and for some, descending into the depths of dark is the option seems the best choice. .

Buy Descending Here!


Need more convincing? Here’s a sneak peek!

Someone slammed hard into Ashby Standing’s shoulder, forcing his chest into the cold metal of his locker as his cheek smashed into the chevron shaped vents at the top.

“Nice balance, four eyes, maybe you should get your ears checked as well,” Ashby’s personal bully, Mitchell, said. Laughter erupted from the students within hearing range. Ashby adjusted his glasses, more annoyed with their constant presence than the other student’s antics. The bully continued down the hall toward the science labs.

“What a freak,” another student whispered as they passed.

Ashby pushed himself away from the door and brushed his fingertip over the sensor to open his locker, then proceeded to place his books on the shelf and exchange his morning class notebooks for the afternoon ones. He was glad that Mitchell had moved on instead of making a bigger deal out of something.

“Ash!” Doran’s voice echoed off the metal. Ashby cringed at the nickname. He hated the burned and fire jokes that often came with it. Still, his eyebrow raised as his triplet brother, Doran, bolted down the hall toward him, followed by a few people in the far distance. Doran almost never called him Ash. Unless it was important.
“Ash!” Doran pulled some object from his satchel.

Ashby sighed. Doran never learned. It seemed Ashby was forever doomed to be dragged into all sorts of problems by his brother.

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Ashby countered. “Dad said I didn’t have to help you.”

Doran panted as he shoved a black ball into Ashby’s hands. “Remember when I said that I thought the coaches were altering the dantu puck weight?”

“I think—”

“This is the proof.” Doran met Ashby’s gaze with a certain pleading. “Please. Ash. I need your help.”

“What do you want?”

“Hide it. Put it in your pack, no one is ever going to suspect you.” Doran begged.

Ashby put the ball on the shelf in his locker behind the large physics workbook, then set his English book on the top to hide it from sight.

“Mr. Doran Standing, what do you think you’re doing?”

Doran looked over his shoulder then ran.

“Wait, hold on,” the principal said as he slowed to a stop next to Ashby. One of the other teachers continued to follow his brother.

Ashby turned and raised an eyebrow. “Me?” He looked over his shoulder. Doran was gone from sight.

Excerpt from Descending, available on Amazon

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Interview with Jared Garrett

Last weekend was the annual Spring into Books mega author signing where all of us authors got to have a mini writerly family reunion. It was there I learned that my buddy Jared has a brand shiny book coming out soon – Red Prince, a mesoamerican fantasy (very cool). So I had to grab him for an interview!

Fun fact! Jared keeps Anduril, the Flame of the West at his writing space, among other interesting things.

On to the interview!

First, let’s get to know you a bit better. How would you feel about being stranded on an uninhabited tropical island and what are the three items you’d bring?

I would be all right with being stranded on said island for a limited period of time. If it was permanent, I’d probably have to register a complaint with my travel agent. Yes, yes, yes, yes. Also, New York’s hottest stranding has every item you could need: a hatchet for cutting, hammering, and being the steel to spark off of for fire; a jet-ski which is that thing where you can ride around in bodies of water and do sweet tricks; and plenty of gas for the jet-ski.

What I’m saying is that all I’d need is a hatchet and a conveyance off the island. To stick to the conventional rules, I would bring a hatchet, a big spool of bailing wire, and 10 lbs of dental floss. And if someone could have a big slice of cake ready for me after I was rescued- that’d be great.

What are two pet peeves of yours that make you want to flip the table?

I have a lot of these, so I’ll narrow them down to things that happen at tables. I get pretty frustrated when the people I’m eating with aren’t paying attention enough to the group to hear when they should be passing things to folks asking for the steaks or mashed potatoes or what have you. Granted, I have a +13 on Passive Perception, so I hear everything being said, but folks need to tune in and maybe not slip into their endless private conversations about string theory, Breath of the Wild, or what have you.

Another table-related pet peeve is a wobbly table. You sit there and lean on the table and you just see-sawed your companion’s food into their face. No bueno. This really makes me want to flip the table over and fix the dang leg.

Okay, in truth, all joking aside, I have two actual major pet peeves. First is when someone leaves trash or mess. How hard is it to clean up after yourself? How inconsiderate can you be to not care about the people you share that space with that you leave a mess? Second, someone eating or drinking while they’re on the phone with me or anyone else. That makes me want to flip the table, chop it to pieces with my hatchet, then burn it. Is this civilization or isn’t it?

You’ve written in multiple different time periods and genres. Which one is your favorite and why?

My debut was a novelization of my own childhood in a cult that splintered off of Scientology in the sixties – which I happily escaped from when I was 17. So that’s a modern, coming of age story. And I loved writing it. I have a few more like that in my folder of projects to get to. That book is probably my favorite since I poured five years of my writing life into it. That said, it’s a blast writing in a speculative future where I can riff on modern technology and try to come up with cool evolutions of today’s tech, societal trends, and governments. But it’s a lot of work to put real science into science fiction. Which is why I tend to stick to fantasy. I tried writing fantasy set in a sword and sorcery world and it went okay, but felt very derivative of masters like Mercedes Lackey, Terry Brooks, and R.A. Salvatore. So now I write fantasy in our world, with the fantastical elements being largely influenced by world religious mythology and legends of the regions and times I write in. This stuff lands in the sweet spot of where I like to speculate based on all of my studies and reading about world cultures and history. So I’m happy in my fantasy stories right now– writing fast-paced action filled with big heroes who get the stuffing beaten out of them and keep going. It’s a lot like if you mashed up Tarzan or Princess of Mars and Die Hard.

All that said, I’m planning an espionage thriller series set in our modern day. I adore Robert Ludlum and other espionage masters, so it’s high time I give it a whirl.

Whatever I’m writing, what readers will quickly learn I love is to write about flawed, determined, tough people who choose to stop evil at great cost to themselves. And the good guys always win. And there’s always some romance.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?

That I don’t write for an age. For the longest time, I thought I was a YA author. But I write for all ages and literally everyone. I have a couple books that are used for reluctant readers. I write clean enough for anybody to read. It was a great thing when I had my “I don’t care about age categorization” epiphany. I could break free from some of the goofy baggage attached to some of the age categorization sub-cultures, which was very good. I don’t feel weighed down by having to be careful of this or that crowd. I just write awesome stuff now, with zero worry about the opinions of self-appointed gatekeepers.

Another thing that was surprising to me was that when I tried to write a love triangle in Beat and Push, it didn’t work. It didn’t ring even close to true. It occurred to me that in my, admittedly limited, experience, I’d never encountered a love triangle. And I read YA books that were awash in angsty love triangles and it turned out I didn’t believe them.

As for learning something about myself- I have learned that if I want to write stories that make me proud, I have to put my all into it. It’s scary to have such ambitious ideas for my books, but screwing my courage to the writing point has been a valuable exercise. I feel comfy in my skin now that I’ve learned to write the story the way it is in my head and heart. Without skirting or taking the easy way out.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

I have Andúril, the Sword of Kings, reforged by Elrond for Aragorn to wield in the ultimate battle against the dark forces of Sauron. It hangs on my wall. So does Sting- the sword not the singer. I have a fancy picture of the Serenity and one from Battlestar Galactica. I have a huge print of Frazetta’s Death Eater glowering at me. I’ve got a six inch tall, beautiful sculpture of Gollum looking over my shoulder and the Argonath looming over me from a bookcase behind me.

But the most interesting thing to me is the six bibs and completion medals from the endurance races I’ve done and a print copy of every book I’ve published. These remind me that I can do the hard things, and not only that, I love doing the hard things. I thrive on pushing past what I thought were my limits. The bibs and books remind me of that and keep me going.

What’s next? What are you working on?

I’m querying for my memoir and am on the last possible submission place for my Old West Gunpowder fantasy with dragons and monsters- if the place I’ve sent it doesn’t want it, I’ll self-publish it. I am outlining my espionage series. And for actual new words, I’m finally going to write the rest of Passenger to Carthage, my steampunk time travel story about a woman trying to save Joseph Smith from assassination so he can become president. For entirely secular reasons. She thinks Manifest Destiny is one of the worst evils ever and wants to save the indigenous peoples from it- and Joseph Smith was opposed to Manifest Destiny. This started as a short story and is going to be at minimum a novella.

Also, my newest book, Red Prince, is out on May 31st. It’s the third in a mesoamerican fantasy trilogy and it is no holds-barred fun.

Red Prince, coming May 31st!

About Red Prince

Lakhoni and his family are in search of a home away from the blood, evil, and memories of Molgar and his plans to rule two nations. Alronna’s dreams are leading them north, to a land of abundance and peace.

But when they come upon a slaughtered village, the chase begins anew. Gadnar, Molgar’s, powerful brother, escaped the showdown at the end of Usurper and is spilling blood everywhere he goes. He seeks the final ancient Relic, certain it will give him power over the land.

Setting aside their quest for peace, Lakhoni, Alronna, Simra, and their companions track Gadnar, determined to end his reign of terror. But as the source of his power becomes clear, they will have to face down an evil as ancient as creation. If they fail, monsters beyond imagination will enshroud the land, putting all the people under thrall. But to succeed, they will have to pay the ultimate sacrifice.

Sneak peak!

Alronna dropped onto the smooth log next to Lakhoni. He flinched. “Alronna. Haven’t seen you much.”

She nodded. “I’ve been trying to figure out these dreams.” Her face, lit orange and yellow by the flames, looked confused. “I know what they mean and know I’m going to listen to what they’re telling us to do—go north. But why am I having them?” She grew quiet for a moment. The next thing she said was so quiet he almost couldn’t hear. “And why do they only come if I’m holding the Sword while I’m sleeping?”

“What?” Cool tingles slid down his neck and back. “You never told me that.” Lakhoni’s eyes dropped to her side. The Sword of Nubal hung there, resting and poking out somewhat awkwardly on top of the log.

“I realized it only a few days ago and tested the idea.” Alronna swallowed. “I’m sure. If I sleep with one hand on the Sword, the dreams come. If not, they don’t.”

“So don’t.”

“You mean ‘so do.’” Alronna shifted and gave Lakhoni a sardonic smile. “Why would I not have the dreams if they’re guiding us the right way? What else could they help us with or warn us about? Why would I ever let go of the Sword?”

“So you can have a peaceful night’s sleep.” Lakhoni took in his sister’s face—no longer gaunt from slavery, but not young and soft like before she had been taken. Now she looked like a warrior woman, a lot like Anca and Marana of the Azarites to the northwest. She looked strong. Unstoppable. But right now, she also looked worried and confused.

Excerpt from Red Prince, by Jared Garrett

He’s in plaid, he’s got grace, he’s got a beard on his face – it’s Jared!

About today’s guest:

Jared Garrett is the author of the number one bestselling scifi thriller Beat and a bunch of other lies in book form. He is a family man raising seven kids with his best friend and wife of two decades.

Jared had an odd childhood in a nomadic cult, which he left at seventeen. He’s worked as a firefighter, a BBQ restaurant manager, a cowboy theater actor, a bellman, and as a rubber vulcanizing engineer, among many others.

His favorite authors are Terry Pratchett, Robert Ludlum, Katherine Paterson, Douglas Adams, Patricia McKillip, Brandon Sanderson, Mercedes Lackey, R.A. Salvatore, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many more. If you ask him where his story ideas come from, be prepared for a lengthy discussion about inspiration dust, hauling a towel wherever you go, and dogs. Lots and lots of dogs. No, seriously. Dogs.

Looking for Jared’s books? Look no further –


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Interview with Ben Ireland, plus a Sneak Peek inside Bleakwood Lore

Today I’m thrilled to have friend and fellow author Ben Ireland with me to share his thoughts about writing and his books. Better still, I was able to read the first Billy Blacksmith book last week. If you have a kid in your life (or young-at-heart adult) who likes adventures, danger, and an unlikely hero – this is a great series.

Onto the interview!

Tell us about your journey – What led you to writing Billy Blacksmith’s story?

Billy Blacksmith is actually my second published series. The first, Kingdom City, was published by Xchyler. It’s a fun tale about government sanctioned torture, human experimentation, and the desperate struggle to survive in a dystopian city torn apart by war.

Kingdom City is dark, and sometimes brutal. Which I thought was cool when I was younger. The protagonist of Kingdom City is Autumn, a woman who is powerful, brilliant, and internally shattered by her past choices. But by the time Kingdom City: Revolt had come out in 2016, the real world felt like a darker place to me. I wanted to add some light.

One day I walked into my kitchen, the sun was shining through the window, and it’s almost like I heard a voice in my head, saying: “I’m Billy Blacksmith. I like video games, cupcakes, and baseball. My best friend is a demon, and for some reason, I, have to save the world.”

Then, question after question (Why does Billy have to save the world? Why is his best friend a demon?) The Blacksmith Legacy universe was conceived. And it’s been so much stinking fun.

But seasoned with a little darkness, because I can’t help myself.

I’ve found most authors keep special items close by when they work. What’s the most interesting thing you keep on your desk and why?

I usually have my adopted cat, Bam Bam on my lap. Does that count?

Is there a hidden lesson in the Billy Blacksmith books? If so, what is it?

No. I try really hard not to sneak a lesson into my writing. I like to leave room for the reader to make up their own mind about what is happening in the story. There are characters that say things dear to my heart, while other characters express opinions that I find abhorrent.

But then there are times where my characters say “Friendship has tangible, magical value.” So sometimes I’m not all that subtle.

If there is anything I’m trying to say, is that Billy is about the conflict about good and evil. What I want to do is make you question what good and evil really means.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself while writing your books?

I CAN live off 4 hours of sleep most nights. For a limited time.

What’s next? Tell us about the projects you are working on.

Currently I’m working on Bleakwood Lore. The Blacksmith Legacy: Addendum.
The Billy Blacksmith books are all part of The Blacksmith Legacy universe. Bleakwood Lore is the first non-Billy Blacksmith book I’m writing in the series. It has eleven short stories from the perspective of different characters. Some you know, some you’ve only just met briefly. It was that, or have eleven opening chapters to Book Four.
I’m really excited about this one. It was incredibly fun to write, and it has a lot of reveals for those who have been paying attention to the series.

The current titles in the Billy Blacksmith Universe:

About Ben Ireland

Born and raised in Australia, Ben Ireland is uniquely qualified to write about horrifying spiders and how much they would like to kill you. An award-winning writer of both Young Adult Urban Fantasy and Cyber-Horror, Ben received the Gold Quill 2017 for Billy Blacksmith: The Demonslayer from the League of Utah Writers. His other award-winning books include Billy Blacksmith: The Hellforged, The Ironsoul; the cyber-horror series – Kingdom City, and several short stories.
Learn more at BenIrelandBooks.com

Want to grab a copy of one of Ben’s books? Find all of them over at his Amazon author page.

Sneak Peek Excerpt from Ben’s next book, Bleakwood Lore

This is a scene from the 4th story of Bleakwood Lore. Krios—a twenty foot tall demonic spider (and ex-general of the Spider Horde)—has been trapped in the Human Realm with his princess, who happens to be a human. She’s sick, and Krios isn’t sure what to do, so he enlists the aid of a Smith’s worker to purchase some “human medicine.”

A curious, burning smell wafted through the air. Krios crept across the roof and peered over the rearmost wall of the store. The back lot of the store was not brightly lit, a large square of asphalt with several cars parked in the shadows. Around the asphalt unkempt shrubs grew, entangling themselves about a sagging metal fence. To Krios’ left, a ramp descended towards a huge door in the rear of Smith’s store.

Directly beneath him, a single human stood in the dim light. She did not seem large by human standards, with a slim figure and thin arms. Her outfit of black pants and a red collared shirt held the air a uniform. She tucked her short brown hair behind her ear and lifted a small stick to her lips. When she lowered the stick, a cloud which wreaked of burning lifted into the air, much like a demon smoking a pipe, though far less fragrant.

“Human,” Krios grunted in human language.

The woman started in surprise, looking around her for the source of the voice.

“I require drugs,” Krios said. “Are you able to help me?”

The human laughed nervously. “How do I know you’re not a cop?”

“I can assure you, I am not.” Whatever that is. “Can you help me locate drugs?”

“Yeah. I might,” she said. “What are you looking for?”

Krios dropped from the roof and landed in front of the human. “Excellent. I require your assistance immediately.”

The woman screamed and jumped backwards, tumbling over the rail behind her and down the ramp. The burning stick flew into the air, drawing an arc of bitter smoke as it fell.

Krios dashed forward after her, following her down the incline. She scuttled backwards on her hands, her eyes bulging as she took in Krios’ mighty form, until she slammed into the far wall. Her mouth was wide, her body shaking. The only thing she seemed to remember to do was breathe.

“Will you assist me?” Krios asked.

Her eyes passed over Krios, and landed on his sapphyril mandible. “Why can you . . . talk?” she said. “Please don’t eat me.”

“I will not eat you,” Krios said as reassuringly as possible.

She continued her attempts to scuttle backwards, despite the wall hindering any further movement. “What . . . what . . . what do you want?”

Krios rolled his eyes. Humans become quite stupid when you frighten them. “I told you, I require drugs.”

She laughed, though without humor. “I ain’t got a bowl big enough for you.”

***

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