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!


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Happy Birthday Stonebearer’s Betrayal!

Photo by Cristian Escobar on Unsplash

Reminiscing…

Exactly one year ago today Stonebearer’s Betrayal, my very first novel, entered the world – and oh what a day that was. There’s something to be said about a dream you’ve worked on for years to finally happen. To be honest, I was more terrified and insecure about release day than for the birth of my own children. So much depended on things that were wildly out of my hands, everything from Amazon rankings, to generating a good public buzz, tp the people who ended up coming to my launch party. All I could do was try my best and watch and wait.

With my kids, I didn’t have to prove anything. My responsibilities revolved around keeping them healthy and happy and success was easily measured. The world had nothing to do with their well being, as well it shouldn’t.

Yeah, not quite so true with books… Authors are expected to flaunt their book babies to the unsuspecting public at literally every turn. Even more so, we are supposed to go flaunt it to complete strangers and beg, remind, and cajole them to tell us what they think in the form of a review. We spend hundreds of hours seeking out ways of making connections with as many people as possible, because the health of our book baby depends on it.

The Challenges of First time Authoring

Some authors are much better at it than others. One of those tragic truths about creative people is that we’re good at what we do because we thrive on spending time with words and ideas and finding ways to make them exciting. Most of us struggle to reach out to strangers by the hundreds to find ways to share our message.

For me, this entire year has been eye opening to say the least. Leading up to last year’s release, I spent hours and hours learning about all aspects of authoring books, including researching marketing needs. There is something to be said about learning by doing vs. learning by any other means. While taking classes and reading books about the subject is an amazing way to get a general feel for what needs to be done, it feels like each challenge or obstacle is a burning match and the solutions are as easy as blowing it out.

On the other hand, learning by doing, especially when it comes to marketing your own products, is more like being thrown into a building that is on fire. It’s dramatic, scary, and sometimes you feel like you might die from the sheer volume of what needs to be done. No matter how hard you blow, the flaming challenges keep coming back.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

I quite literally burned myself out. During the four months leading up to the release and then the six months after, I spent anywhere between 4-6 hours every single day working to find opportunities ranging from identifying people who would be interested in giving reviews to tracking down podcast hosts and pitching them show ideas. Over the course of the year, I showcased over a combined sixty different artists and authors on my blog as I tried to spread good karma.

Don’t get me started on the amount of time I spent trying to find my voice on social media. I still stink at that… But I’m learning!

Worse still, I lost the time to do the parts of authoring that I truly loved. I couldn’t find the time to write down new shiny stories and then polishing them up until they shone. The sequel novel didn’t get the attention it needed, not to mention the dozens of short story projects that I wanted to be a part of but simply didn’t have the time or energy.

Give me a new baby any day. Actually, I take that back. With my young kiddos still at home, I’m still balancing their needs into my working day.

The Future

All that said, the future of the Stonebearers brand is shining bright and I’m excited at all the plans that are coming together as I write this.

The biggest announcement, is that the sequel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal, Stonebearer’s Apprentice is slated to come out the second week of March 2020. Stay tuned for sneak peaks and other amazing stuff I’m planning for its release.

I’d like to thank all of you who have taken this journey with me. It’s been one wild ride, and will only get better. Thank you dear readers. I couldn’t do it without you.


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NaNoWriMo 2019

It’s that magical time of year again! No, not the holidays. Oh … wait, those are magical too. I’m talking about NaNoWriMo, the one month novel writing challenge that has grabbed the worldwide writing community by the fingers.

Over the years I’ve participated and succeeded in meeting the 50,000 goal words enough times that I have to think back and count on my fingers. It’s at least four times, if not five. Not super important. Some years I’ve used the challenge to write the second half of books in progress, like the upcoming release of book two in the Stonebearer Saga, Stonebearer’s Apprentice. This year I’m trying something new – writing a novella set in the Stonebearer Universe.

The lovely people running NaNoWriMo create awesome badges and swag for those participating. Aren’t they nice?

Novellas are short books ranging between 20,000 and 50,000 words (~80-150 pages) long and would be about half the length of the books I normally write. Yep, I’m excited.

The story will center around Isben, a young man who plays a critical role in helping the main character, Katira, in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. I will be backing up several years into his past and showing the path he needed to take to become part of the Stonebearer society.

Most years I promise myself I’ll do lots of great pre-planning and figure out all my characters and places and significant story points before the start of November. AAAAND, most years I end up running out of time and end up figuring it out as I go.

Guess who ran out of time again. Yep. This girl. Remember that awesome trip I took with my family? Turns out it’s really hard to work on stuff like this in a car. Some people can do it, I’m not one of them.

That said, normally scheduled blog posts are probably going to be short and snarky this month.

Wish me luck (and send treats!)


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Stonebearer’s Betrayal Sequel Update

For those of you keeping track, I officially started editing the rough draft of the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal back in March. During the writing phase, I’d experimented with both speech-to-text and using a stand alone drafting keyboard, which made the draft messier than usual.

Note to self – when using speech-to-text, correct the mistakes the same day you dictate. Also, teach your software your character’s names early. Katira’s name changed into all sorts of crazy, like cuchara (Spanish for spoon).

I encourage anyone learning a new skill to experiment and find what works best for them. While I spent hours and hours going back and fixing misheard lines and words (and sometimes trying to divine what on earth I might have been thinking…) I know now how effective using dictation software is for me at this point. If it wasn’t for that test, I wouldn’t have tried tried transcribing my own recordings instead. Doing it that way means I can add correct punctuation marks and use names correctly the first time as I listen to files recorded on my phone. It also means I can speak out a scene in the oddest of places where writing or typing would be difficult, like while out walking, and then have material ready for when I’m ready to sit down and type.

All of this has helped me refine my writing process. With drafting, the most important goal is to get the whole broken story out onto the page, then make decisions where new scenes are needed or if something needs to be taken away. Editing is far different as it takes much longer focused sessions of working at the computer, which can be a challenge to find.

A little history…

I started writing the sequel novel to Stonebearer’s Betrayal during NaNoWriMo 2015 as a challenge to myself to see if I really did have another book in me. I met my goal and wrote the first half, about 50,000 words. Then life happened, as if often does and I set it down to work on other projects and focus on getting book one ready to see the world.

I didn’t touch it for over a year – literally waiting until the next NaNoWriMo to work on it again. That was when I did something truly stupid – and didn’t read the first half before writing the second. This was a lack of planning on my part. I could have easily done my preparation in October, but again, got too busy and when November 1st rolled around it was time to write.

This meant there was time for ideas to change and shift in my mind between the two halves of the book, many of those ideas for the better. But, it also meant that it took a huge amount more work to edit. I’ve literally rewritten 80% of the book at least once, if not several times, to make the two halves match. Learning is hard sometimes, and if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I really (really!) need to not put projects down for a year and then not spend a day or two simply rereading what was there.

Fast forward to today. There are twenty pages left of the final edit and a handful of little things to tighten up and then the sequel is ready for professional editing and test reading. So much yay! I feel like I’ve been teasing about finishing this one for months now, probably because I kept setting unrealistic goals and then being surprised when I didn’t reach them.

Another note to self – planning on getting significant work done during the kids summer break from school – totally not realistic.

Like I said before, there is a learning curve with every new project and although I know I’ve gotten so much better at drafting and editing, there’s still a long way to go before I can claim mastery. I’m proud to say with each attempt things get better, easier, and faster.

Writing the first book and bringing it to publication was a ten year journey. The second will only be five. The third is already drafted and I expect it to only take 18 months from start to publication – including the months I stopped to focus on book two. If this trend continues it’s totally possible for me to complete two full length novels a year in the future.

Will I get to that point? Time will definitely tell. There is an exciting world of possibilities out there and I intend to keep trying and moving forward.

I fully intend to release Stonebearer’s Apprentice (official title pending…) in Spring of 2020 and Katira’s story will continue!

Here’s to making progress in whatever way we can!


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The Origins of Stonebearer’s Betrayal

Everyone wants to hear some fantastic story about how their favorite books came to be. While it would be easy to say that a dream angel gifted me with such a powerful idea that I stayed up for the next three nights feverishly writing down every beautiful word until my fingers bled, it wouldn’t be true. The fact is, Stonebearer’s Betrayal came into the world much like an unruly apple tree.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

It started with an idea, parts of which were tactfully borrowed from my favorite fiction tropes. This idea burrowed into the soil of my imagination and poked at my waking thoughts from time to time. When the time was right, I watered it with my attention until it started to grow, and grow, and grow. It was an ugly thing, overgrown, shapeless, and crowded by weeds. Over time I learned to prune away each unneeded character and subplot. It hurt but was necessary to allow the healthy branches to grow strong and bear fruit.

I still remember the moment when I decided I’d give this whole writing thing a try. In the sleep-deprived weeks and months following my daughter’s birth, the stress of caring for a newborn, paired with exhaustion, tacked on to also having a toddler to care for, pushed me past the breaking point. I had to escape. Some women shop. I dive into worlds created by the written word.

It was on one of these dives when I noticed that my reading experience had changed from when I was younger. I used to allow stories to eat me whole and I would only come up for air when I absolutely had to. As a parent, the distractions and needs of a busy family came first. I couldn’t dive deep, yet I craved that immersive experience.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

So I started writing. During nap time I typed away at dark ideas wanting to be explored. Every late night feeding was a chance to imagine different story twists and possibilities. It kept me sane and gave much-needed release. Years later, and a lot of learning about the craft of writing, I finally felt ready to let someone else take a look.

And … it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. Inside the bloated and unwieldy story there were ideas that accidentally got sucked into the void alongside whole side stories that didn’t really matter. World building ideas needed to be solidified and developed and character motivations needed lots of shining up.

Bit by bit, year after year, I made agonizingly slow progress as the chapters and scenes started coming together and behaving nicely with each other. The big turning point was when my youngest started to attend school and I could have a few hours of undisturbed headspace to dig in and finish.

The book went under contract when he was in kindergarten and was published when he was in 1st grade.

Did I totally have a crush on Duncan Macleod? Yes, yes I did.

Where did some of the key ideas come from? I’ll admit, this book is my love letter to all my favorite books and TV shows I used to enjoy as a teen. I adore the Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings, alongside pulpy favorites such as Highlander: The Series and Kung Fu: the Legend Continues. There might be a dash of Life in the ER as well…

Currently, I’m eyeballs deep in finishing final edits on the sequel and letting the characters drive the story to where it was always meant to go. Man, this is going to be good.


Stonebearer’s Betrayal is available in print at all major online retailers and in ebook exclusively through Amazon.com. Pick up your copy today!


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Exploring the Five Orders: Guardians

No magical secret society would be complete without its dedicated protectors. In the Stonebearer universe these are the Order of the Guardians. Not only do they protect the society’s interests, they also lead its defense in times of war and unrest. In this latest era of the world, they must step forward again to counter the dark forces rising up from the barrier between worlds.

Image by Torulus from Pixabay

Most guardians tend to stay at the Stonebearer stronghold, Amul Dun, to protect those living there against attack and to train and refine their skills. After the last war, far fewer guardians returned to the keep. Many were killed. Of those who survived, some stayed away because they sought peace deep in the isolated villages far from the cities.

A Stonebearer Guardian must possess the talent to strengthen both physical and intangible objects with their power. This means any weapon in their hands becomes unbreakable, any armor, impenetrable. As long as they have the strength to cast the glyphs, they are untouchable.

As with the other orders, guardians must train hard to develop their skills. They learn fighting techniques from those who have mastered various fighting styles over centuries of effort. Many legends have stemmed from lone guardians fighting against impossible odds.

The most notable guardians in Stonebearer’s Betrayal are Katira’s father, Jarand and his trusted friend who’s stood by his side in the worst of times, Issa.


If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!

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If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

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Thanks 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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Exploring the Five Orders: Healers

In the Stonebearer universe there are those who possess a magical power called the Khandashii. This power manipulates matter. Specific abilities and skills are determined by the strengths and talents of the user. Today we explore the Healing order of Stonebearers.

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

What’s the use of magic and the ability to change the reality of the world, if it can’t be used to help someone? For Healers, the call to help those who are sick or injured is the strongest and best way they fulfill the drive to make the world better.

Just like today’s medical professionals, to become a Stonebearer Healer requires rigorous study and training. They must have a working understanding of how the body functions down to the most minute details. Without this knowledge, using healing magic is useless.

Those who become Stonebearer Healers must have a talent in using the parts of the power that make broken things whole. With this power, healers can knit back together bones, ligaments, tendons, and tissues that have been injured. To some extent they can also draw away viruses, bacteria, and toxins.

Most Stonebearer Healers venture out into the world to ply their trade in small towns and villages, places where they can do the most good. The use of magic is feared by the world at large so this is a challenge. However, in life or death situations when there are no other options, they will use their power to make the difference.

Healers featured in Stonebearer’s Betrayal include Mirelle, Katira’s mother, Firen, the Head of the Healing order, and his assistant Cassim.

I would totally stick Bill Nighy in as Firen, but I can’t find him in anything but a suit and tie. Go figure.


If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!

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If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

***

Thanks 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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From Book Launch to Now – Going off the Rails, in Style!

Back in December I wrote, in super dramatic terms, about bringing my first book into the world and how it was way more like being a first-time mom than I ever expected. Looking back, I agree with every word.

It’s been almost six months since the release of Stonebearer’s Betrayal and the roller coaster of emotion is now more like a carousel. There are still ups and downs, but they don’t make me scream and I only get motion sick if I close my eyes for too long. Each turn is predictable with each next step already planned. Each tiny up has its own tiny down.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

It’s all very manageable and to be honest – a little boring. It’s work. Plain and simple. I create goals to complete. Some are big, like finishing 2000 minutes of editing each month to finish Stonebearer’s #2. Some are tiny, like making sure my email stays under control. Some can be tedious, like ensuring my social media presence stays solid. (By the way, my Instagram is fabulous.) Some are fun, like attending conferences and signings.

I find myself hoarding time like a miser. Each minute I can work in peace while the kids are at school is measured and optimized. The hours of the day are sliced and diced into focused chunks, 45 minutes here to write today’s blog post, 10 minutes there to fold the laundry, 15 minutes here to answer an email, another hour there to edit another scene.

Right in the beginning, when the world of possibilities was wide open, I lost focus on my big goal, to earn my success by creating great novels, and instead spent way too much time chasing micro opportunities down rabbit holes. Whole days were eaten in the search for podcasts and book review sites willing to even look at me. I didn’t write or edit a word of fiction for months.

I turned into a crazy person. I collected every bit of data and studied each analytic hoping to see an upturn that said I’d won the author lottery and the mainstream market had noticed my little book. After months of working and watching, I realized the only way to continue growing my fan base would be to keep writing more books for people to enjoy.

So here I am. Working. Hard. Everyday.

I don’t regret my weeks and months spent being a little crazy and obsessive – it comes with the whole becoming an author package and needs to be experienced to be understood.

I’m all better now. Here, have a smiling potato.


Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.

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Exploring the Five Orders: Seekers

The defining characteristic of books in the fantasy genre is the existence of magic and/or magical creatures. Last month, we explored the magic used by the Traveling order in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. This month’s focus is the Order of the Seekers.

Photo by j zamora on Unsplash

For many, both in fantastical worlds and also here in the real world, the pursuit of knowledge is a lifelong process that is both gratifying and compelling. Researchers, writers, documentary creators, and news reporters (to name a few) all seek out the facts they need to prove a point, entertain, inform, or improve the world around them.

Seekers are no different, except they have magic at their disposal. Where a Traveler can manipulate the location of themselves, items, and others, a Seeker can use their magic to locate items and facts. Some seekers are rumored to even be able to peer into time itself and see the past or future to an extent.

Most seekers prefer working as historians and spend their days recording their insights on significant events. Some, however, choose to be informants and use their skill to uncover plots and learn the truth behind circulating rumors.

The darker side of those in the seeker order is the unsavory practice of extracting information from those who don’t wish to give it. Stonebearer society has strict rules governing when and if this practice can be allowed.

As we said when we were learning about Travelers, the use of the power is inherently dangerous. Seekers tend to be the safest of the five orders as it’s difficult to overextend oneself.

The most notable Seekers in the first book in the Stonebearer series are Bremin, the High Lady Alystra’s master spy and Regulus, Isben’s master and Wrothe’s first victim.

If you missed the post talking about the overall structure of the Stonebearer Magic System, look no further!

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If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

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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.

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

Exploring the Five Orders: Travelers

Back in January, I shared a little about the magic system that exists in Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Today I’d like to dive deeper into the magic system and talk more about Travelers.

Where would you go if you could magically Travel?

Star Trek fans can appreciate the science and technology surrounding the idea of teleportation and how useful it can be. If you can move from one place to another in moments rather than hours, a whole new reality presents itself. With this ability, escaping from danger or running to the rescue can happen in a heartbeat. No prison can hold a Traveler and no location is secure, unless protected by a greater magic.

In the Stonebearer universe, the use of magic is dangerous and therefore those who possess it must use caution. Those who have a talent for Traveling, are able to manipulate objects and themselves through space using a series of magical symbols or glyphs.

The most important rule a Traveler must adhere to is that they can only send themselves the same distance they can travel on foot in the course of a day. Pushing to move themselves farther than this drains their energy beyond what is considered safe and they risk loss of consciousness or even death.

When sending objects, a Traveler must consider the items weight and the distance. The lighter the item, the further it can be sent. This is why Travelers tend to be great spies. Not only can they escape from danger, they can send messages to someone days away. The places they can travel to, or send things to, are limited to where a Traveler has visited personally.

The energy to work all magic, including Traveling glyphs, comes from within and can be replenished with rest and time. In an emergency they can draw this energy from other people, but avoid doing so.

Dame Judi Dench would make an amazing Lady Alystra

In Stonebearer’s Betrayal, the most conspicuous Traveler is the High Lady Alystra. Not only is she the head of the Stonebearer Society, she is head of the Traveling Order. She uses her power to maintain lines of communication among the Society as a whole and has a network of spies that help her stay informed. Her head spy is Bremin, a member of the order of Seekers and her bonded companion.

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If you love a great magic system, you’ll love Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Get your copy from Amazon today!

***

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.

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