It's ALIVE! Stonebearer's Betrayal is back and better than ever

Back in October 2019, the ebook of Stonebearer’s Betrayal was removed from Amazon and hasn’t been available. While it was gone, the Stonebearer Saga brand underwent a huge renovation to renew and refresh its image in the marketplace. The biggest part of this was commissioning a fresh new cover that better represented my vision of the book.

Have I been crazy excited about this? Absolutely.

The story still revolves around Katira’s experience as she learns the truth about the magic which exists in both her world and her family, a truth which has been hidden from her.

Here’s the new back cover blurb:

Forbidden magic compelled Katira to live a lie, but learning the truth is far more dangerous than she ever dreamed.

When an innocent hunting trip turns into an attack, Katira’s world fractures. Her humble parents are actually legendary Stonebearers – immortal, powerful beings tasked with protecting the human world from creatures of the mirror realm.

Those cracks widen and shatter apart when the Archdemoness, Wrothe, escapes from her timeless prison and snatches Katira away, intending to use her as bait to destroy not only her family line, but the entire Stonebearer Society.

If Katira is to be made whole again, she must learn to trust the young stranger who’s trying to save her while finding the strength to accept not only her parents’ power, but her own.

Winner of the Quills 2019 Recommended Read

And yes, you can totally order it RIGHT NOW.

Head here for the newly branded ebook

Head here for the new paperback

Note – because the original book is still in the process of being removed from Amazon, be sure to use the above link to find the new paperback. BUT – if you want to score what’s soon to be a rare limited edition printing, you can grab the original for a steal. As of this morning it was priced less than $5.


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Reflections on 2019

No. I’m not writing a goals post. I refuse. Not even the most persuasive chocolate bearing sweet-talker can talk me into one. So there. Ha.

Why? No one wants to read a goals post. Yes, I totally have a few (hundred) goals that I’m making plans to make happen, but waxing all poetic about it all over the blog feels, well, pretentious.

That – and of the hoard of goals I put into writing, I’ll probably completely forget about 70% of them before January ends. It took forty years to figure out that when it comes to personal goals, I tend to go a little crazy – and I can’t handle crazy right now.

Does this all sound a bit familiar? Yeah… I totally did it last year with my whole power word campaign.

Here’s a review of 2019

I really liked the idea of power words, but the idea faded out after the first few months. I still have two words posted here at my desk and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what they were. Note to self – don’t pick nine power words. Instead of digging deep into one idea, I was all over the place with a constantly shifting focus. It was an interesting experiment and if I did it again, I would approach it differently.

As a family, 2019 was busy. With all the kids in school but none of them driving, it means lots of being a mom taxi for me. We traveled quite a bit in our travel trailer, including heading down to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Currently, the kids love video games, board games, and exploring new places.

At the beginning of 2019 I’d just barely survived putting my first book into the world and was already on the edge of a significant burnout. Most of January of 2019 consisted of 6-8 hour days contacting reviewers and learning how to best market a new product, all while being a mom to young kids and also maintaining a home. What made me more tired than anything was not knowing what needed to be done and and trying to do all the things anyway. I’ve learned a lot this year and going forward I have a better plan for future releases.

Which leads me to my most significant moment of 2019, the decision to request back my rights to my first book back and create my own publishing label – Stone Orchid Press. This was not a decision I entered into lightly. I agonized for months over the pros and cons of staying with traditional publishing vs taking up the banner on my own. In the end, the flexibility of setting my own deadlines combined with having more control over the quality of the finished project and the production schedule helped me make my decision.

Going into 2020

My big focus for 2020 will be to find balance between my career as an author, taking care of myself, caring for my family, and keeping the household in order. As we left 2019, I worked actively to find a way to handle my schedule in such a way that I could do all four things in a very intentional way.

My big kick off announcement for 2020 is the rerelease of Stonebearer’s Betrayal in preparation for the release of the sequel novel, Stonebearer’s Apprentice, coming later in the Spring.

You can totally order it RIGHT NOW.

Head here for the newly branded ebook

Or … here for the brand new shiny paperback (Note – the cover is still in the process of loading into Amazon, but this is the correct link)


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Rerelease Cover Reveal!

Just in time for the new year, Stonebearer’s Betrayal has undergone a massive face lift. This new cover captures not only Katira’s story in a new and powerful way, but also represents my growth as an author and my decision to become an independent publisher of my own works.

First, a huge thanks are in order to Fiona Jayde Media for transforming my ideas and thoughts into an image that represents everything I originally hoped the story to be. I loved working with her, and I’m looking forward to crafting covers for the rest of the books in the Shadow Barrier trilogy with her.

You’re probably wondering why I wanted to update my cover. It’s a long and complicated story that has everything to do with my writing goals and what needed to happen to bring them about. Long story short, after receiving a year of thoughtful feedback from people in the industry I trust, I knew a change was needed. Don’t get me wrong, the first cover was dramatic and moody and dark – which does represents some of the elements of the story . However, it didn’t capture Katira’s youth or insecurity and as she is the focus of the story, I wanted the picture to do that part justice.

A jaw dropping design by the talented Fiona Jayde.

The new cover shows Katira as a younger and far more feminine character. She holds the knife that Elan gave her in the beginning of the book and is encircled by magic symbolizing her plunge into the magical world. If you look closely, there are lightning-like lines skirting the outside of the image to represent the marks mature Stonebearers develop on their skin after years of working with the power. In the background are crumbling ruins, representing the Khanrosh where Regulus initially releases the demoness Wrothe and where the story’s climax takes place.

On January 2nd, the fresh new ebook and paperback of Stonebearer’s Betrayal, the first novel in the Shadow Barrier trilogy, will officially hit the shelves and be available for purchase once again.

Also coming soon, book two in the Shadow Barrier trilogy, Stonebearer’s Apprentice – hitting the shelves of online retailers on March 19th.


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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!

***

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.

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