Launch weeks are always stressful. This one was no different. I would love to claim that I’ve been through enough of them to know what to expect, but there are so many variables that it’s almost impossible to predict what will happen.
All I can say is I’m glad it’s over. Finishing one project frees up head space for the next one, and I’ve been eager to get to work on book three ever since I finished the first draft last summer. This past week I dove back in and started ironing out the bumps. Part of this week’s work included finding the right balance between action and introductions as readers are reentering the Stonebearer world. I swear, opening scenes are one of the hardest parts of novel writing, right up there with marketing. It took several scenes worth of discovery writing before I found something I liked.
As part of creating a realistic world, I spent time this week researching what a medieval lady might wear in the summer as compared to what she’d wear in the winter. Right now, the answer is lots of linen. Still searching down a few other details to slip in as I go. I also got to explore a few new parts of Amul Dun that hasn’t been seen yet.
This is the part of writing I enjoy most, and it feels great to get back to it.
Have a happy and safe weekend!
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What a week. Between the constant fear of exposure to COVID and witnessing the protests, there has been plenty to worry about. People are justifiably angry. Any action, including inaction, is met with such criticism that many people feeling trapped and helpless in trying to figure out how they should respond.
Know this, you are not alone if you feel this way.
As for me, the best I can do is be kind and fair in all my dealings and teach my kids to do the same.
This week has also been filled with lots of positive experiences. Both my own kids and close family members have made it through another school year and they deserve to be celebrated. Seeing these kids grow up to be confident and capable adults carries a bittersweet joy and is a constant reminder that life is precious and always changing. The cousins and nieces I watched grow up since they were babies are heading off into the world to make their mark.
It is a new month and a time to be thinking about goals and things that I want to get accomplished. The production of Stonebearer’s Apprentice is all wrapped up, which is a goal five years in the making. I started drafting the first ideas for this book back in 2015 during that year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’m thrilled for it to be hitting the shelves next Friday, June 12th. You can preorder the ebook today!
The next big project is the third and final book in the Shadow Barrier Trilogy, Stonebearer’s Redemption. It’s already drafted, but since I do a lot of discovery writing, editing is a long and involved process. It’s the best part, because this is when I find ways to bring characters, settings, and the story to life. My goal is to spend 5-7 hours a week working on this project with the deadline of finishing the edit at the end of July.
As for everything else business wise, I still plan on writing my usual weekly articles, spending time seeking out marketing opportunities, and there are a few shiny projects on the side I get to play with as well.
My biggest challenge this week will be to figure out how to best manage my time now that we don’t have school so that everything gets done without an undue amount of stress or burning myself out.
If you have a magic solution for that, let me know!
Jodi L Milner is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
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!
For nearly a year, Fridays here on the blog have been dedicated to guest interviews and features. It was gratifying work and a great chance to learn more about the amazing people I’ve had the privilege to meet.
The idea was a great one at first and ultimately spread good karma all around. I got to help other creatives reach more people. Sometimes they did nice things for me in return. However, it was work. I spent hours and hours searching, inviting, interviewing, collecting images, creating graphics, and gathering links and info to make each of these interviews shine.
As a writer mom who works from home, there are always dozens of projects underway at any given time. This makes for a pretty chaotic mind space and a chaotic mind is not an efficient one even on good days. It’s crazy making on bad ones.
Between working to finish books, keeping active on social media, writing blog posts, managing my local writing group, and also maintaining my household and being a stay-at-home mom, something had to give.
After careful analysis of what efforts brought the most benefit and what were fun, but not super helpful, I’ve decided to drop the weekly Friday guest feature. In it’s place, I’ll be sharing something meaningful or interesting. It might be funny or serious, it might be academic or a rant – but it will be something I hope will connect with you, dear reader.
I will still be posting a few interviews here and there as I find them, probably about once a month.
Castle and monastery, church and fortress, Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France has been a bit of everything over its thousand-year plus history. Which is what makes it perfect material for a post here on the blog, where I seek to find magic everyday.
Mont-Saint-Michel at Sunset
I’ve mentioned it before, but I love ancient castles and churches. My Instagram is loaded with gorgeous pictures of them because they stir my imagination and tell so many stories.
I visited Mont-Saint-Michel when I was a young naive teenager. At the time, it was just another wonderful place to visit in a series of interesting places I’d been on a long trip through France. Looking back, I wished I had taken more time to soak in the history. I’m making up for that now.
The earliest history of the island extends back to the 8th century, when the island was called Mont Tombe. “Tombe” meaning grave in Latin evokes the feeling of a graveyard or a final resting place. There is a secondary, and far more fitting, translation as “mount hillock” meaning a raised place. For anyone who has visited the island, it fits this description well. From base to tip, the island rises over 260 feet out of the ocean, and all of it rocky unforgiving granite. I remember my legs burning as we trekked up the steep streets toward the monastery.
According to legend, in 708 AD Archangel Michael appeared to Aubery, bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church in the Archangel’s honor. The bishop repeatedly ignored this heavenly visitor, a truly bad idea, until Saint Michael burned a hole into the bishop’s skull with his finger. The church was built October 16, 709 and devoted to Saint Michael. Mont-Saint-Michel literally means “Saint Michael Mount.”
Saint Michael Iconography
The location of the island is unique as it historically it could only be reached during low tide and was surrounded by silty sand that was prone to becoming quicksand. This made the island easy to defend as the assailants couldn’t continue their fight for risk of drowning.
It was also halfway between the two power Duchies of Normandy and Brittany during the early Middle Ages, which made it the target of the two powers and through the ages it changed hands frequently. At one point it was invaded by Vikings.
Fast forward to 1204, the Breton Guy de Thouars, an ally to the King of France, tried to take the island in a siege. In the process, he accidentally set the main buildings of the monastery on fire, destroying the very same buildings he wanted to occupy. The King of France at the time, Philip Augustus, or Philip II, was horrified that a holy site was damaged in connection to him and offered funds for a major restoration and expansion which included many of the Gothic style buildings we see today.
Courtyard with Gothic arches
Throughout the following hundreds of years the island continued to be an area of dispute. Each successive conqueror added and destroyed parts of the island’s structures until we reach the present day. For more history, there are references below.
Modern day Mont-Saint-Michel can be reached by a long bridge built specially to allow the flow of tidewater underneath. Thrill seekers are still allowed to approach over the sand during low tide, however there are signs everywhere warning of the dangers of quicksand.
Do you have a favorite castle or magical place? Share about it in the comments below and I might do a feature on it in the future.
I swear I’m not teasing you about doing a cover reveal. It will happen, and it looks like it might be by next week’s post. This week we pinned down a few more needed pieces to create the advance review copies for distribution. If you love reading epic fantasy, and even better, love giving reviews, please send me a note!
Also, I’ll be at the Eagle Mountain Writing Conference this weekend. If you are there, come say hi!
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A little over a year ago, in November 2016, I decided it was time to find a forever home for my book baby, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, and started looking for either a publisher or an agent. Sounds easy, right? Nope. Lemme explain.
A lot of research goes into selecting the right place to submit a manuscript. Think of it like this – Submitting a manuscript is the same as applying for a job. The company needs to be respectable and be able to provide services to the author that will convert their vision into a marketable product. Because a partnership between author and publisher can last years, both parties need to be comfortable with each other.
Just like a job, the best companies are the hardest to get a foot in the door. Enter months and months of rejection, insecurity, and moving on.
Fast forward to June 2017. At this point, I had searched for several months without many leads. While never easy, I had grown used to the sting of the endless string of “no”. I submitted to local Utah publisher Immortal Works. I knew authors who had worked with them and been happy, they had some of my favorite people on staff, and they attended all the conferences I liked attending. Seemed like a great fit.
Double bonus – my book has immortals in it. Working with a press called Immortal Works seemed like a special kind of karma.
Months go by and I hear nothing. While it’s not unexpected to have to wait, it is uncomfortable, like a splinter. In September I heard back. They wanted to read the whole manuscript. SQUEE! Finally, someone saw potential in my manuscript. A full manuscript request can still result in a rejection, but for the first time in ten months, I dared to hope a little.
More weeks pass and that splinter has grown into a toothpick. I couldn’t go a minute without thinking about it and wondering and hoping. In early November I learn the Senior Acquisitions Editor has recommended my book for acquisition by the company.
SO MUCH SQUEE, I’M GONNA DIE!
Still, there is a chance they come back and say no. If they are already working with similar titles, or the market is saturated, or they feel it’s not a good fit they can reject a project. It’s an understood part of the business. And the uncertainty sucks.
I might as well have a 2×4 strapped to my head at this point. My family has been super supportive of the publishing process and have patiently listened to all my many ups and downs, but there’s a limit to how much they want to hear about the nitty-gritty of querying and submissions. I stop talking endlessly about it. In fact, talking about it might jinx the whole thing.
The void space of waiting for the final yes is surreal. For so long the golden ticket of having a book published was reserved for more awesome, more deserving, and more talented writers. Having the possibility of my “yes” so close, that golden ticket of validation was nearly mine.
At a time like this, you can’t help but start dreaming of the future and what might happen. So many doors open when an author transitions from short story projects to having their own novel. Invitations to book clubs, speaking engagements, signings, and conferences come easier when you have your own book.
Late November, while chilling watching TV with my hubby and after the kids were in bed, the email comes. The notification jumps up on my phone with a fragment of the message. Not enough to know if it’s a yes or a no, but enough to have a micro heart attack.
It’s a yes.
And a contract.
And I’m like –
And now the real work starts to make this book as awesome as possible. Stay tuned for more updates!
Update, November 2019 – After a relationship that lasted nearly two years, Immortal Works and I parted ways so I could pursue independent publishing.
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It’s been a wild spring with unpredictable weather and plenty of changes to adapt into my life. As a family with young kids, the only thing I can depend on from day to day is unpredictability. My youngest has developed a fascination with Minecraft and loves to play on the worlds he is creating with someone else. I’ll admit, I think it’s really fun to play with him as well, but every hour spent playing video games is an hour not spent doing anything that will help me reach my goals.
That said, perhaps the biggest news is that I’m starting to query out my epic fantasy novel. I didn’t image there would be this much stress associated with waiting for publishers and agents to give me their approval, or rejection, or no response at all. I’ve been at it since December but have only started sending out multiple queries at a time this last month.
The plan for the next few months is to always have five queries out at a time and to participate in whatever Twitter pitch contests drift my way. While this isn’t super aggressive, it doesn’t take over my life either.
[For those scratching their heads – a query is simply a formal letter sent to publishers and literary agents that tells about the book and about the author. A pitch is a short sentence that sums up the book. Both are mind-numbingly hard to create.]
On the short story front, I have two pieces that have been accepted and are awaiting scheduling with the publisher. I will most definitely be posting as soon as I have more info. One is a retelling of classic Vietnamese folklore, the Starfruit Tree and is slated for an anthology. The other, The Skull Collector, is best described as a cross between Moana and the Hunger Games and will be in a magazine.
Other news, I was asked to judge a short story contest for the University of Utah Valley’s Warp and Weave speculative fiction literary magazine. While I’ve judged stories before, it’s never been for anything more than my writing group. All the stories were amazing so it was a true challenge to pick those that rose above the rest.
There’s always a ton of fun/agonizing work to do. While waiting for query responses from agents and editors I have a bundle of great ideas I’d like to work up into publishable short stories and a draft of the sequel novel to create. I also have a handful of presentations to prepare for upcoming conferences, for more info click here.
Here’s to a great Spring!
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It’s been a few months since I’ve posted an update so here we are. I’m excited to say that I finally finished the current draft of my epic fantasy, Stonebearer’s Betrayal. This draft has been long in coming, over a year, and it feels so good to finally be seeing a finished product.
The next step is to put the final polish on the chapters and send them off to a few trusted beta readers. I have to be honest, it’s been a long time since I’ve let anyone see anything more than a scene or two and I’m a little scared about the feedback I might get. At the same time, it’s super exciting to know that I’ve gotten this far.
I did sneak in a little short fiction writing for a contest that one of my local writing groups hosted. I’m proud to say that my flash fiction piece, This is my Destiny, won first place in its category. I wanted to try my hand at a historical fiction piece with a speculative fiction twist for another anthology but it didn’t come together. There are a few other deadlines in the future that I’d like to prepare pieces for, but for the most part I think I will focus on my novel.
The next big thing is the LDStorymakers Conference in two weeks. I have a chapter entered in to the first chapter contest, which again scares the crap out of me. I’d love to win, validation is always a good thing. I will also attend the intense Publication Primer where a professional editor will ream my first 10 pages to shreds along with the other four people in my group. It’s the best way to grow as a writer, but man it can be rough. It takes thick skin and lots of perspective to be able to not take things personally.
Hopefully by the next update in a few months I’ll have my initial beta feedback on my novel and will be well into the final editing process and then – gasp! – it’s time to start sending it out! EEEK!
The last six months have been a strange mix of writing for fun and writing that feels like work. I sold my first piece of short fiction BREATH, which led to several weeks spent in working with a professional editor. By the way, if you ever want to know the truth about what your writing weaknesses are, a good editor will have no problem in telling you.
With any publication there comes marketing, which for me included conducting several interviews and also being interviewed. It also involved creating author accounts on Amazon and Goodreads. As fun at it is, all these things take up valuable time.
The success of my first story kicked off a crazy desire to try again, so I spent several weeks writing and polishing a steampunk story to submit. Having never written steampunk before, this was a huge learning experience for me. I had fun writing it, but in the end it was rejected. Disheartening? Yes. Life shaking? No. I know where I went wrong, and now I have a story that with a bit more work, I can brush it and try again.
Fast forward to the last few weeks, I’ve decided to enter the first chapter of my book-in-progress in the LDStorymakers Writing Conference first chapter contest. I swear I’ve rewritten this opening chapter at least five times. This time, I finally feel like I have the right characterisations and the right tone. Hopefully the judges will agree.
Next on the docket – a contest entry for one of my writing chapters. I have the choice of short story, flash fiction, first chapter, or poetry. The due date is next week, so I better get hopping!
Want to read what I’ve been working on? Check out these links:
The month of November seemed to fly by faster than normal, there was way too much going on and not nearly enough time for any of it. We celebrated Thanksgiving and three birthdays. Then there was the decorating and the cooking and the other dozens of things needed to prepare for the holidays.
As for NaNoWriMo, my rebel project hit a wall at the 15,000 word mark when I realized that I had a major plotting issue. I call it my rebel project because instead of writing a new piece of fiction I chose to put the polish on the book I’ve been fighting to finish.
The problem goes something like this – everything was fine with the story, but it needed something to give it a little oomph. To do this, I combined the roles of a more minor character with a main character. This made so much sense in the planning phase and I was really excited at the different possibilities it offered. Now I can have a love triangle along with all the action and adventure.
However, as I began my revisions and started changing that character to fit both roles I had a terrible realization. I need him to be a part of a mini quest with another character but I had neglected to figure out how he gets involved with that character in the first place. They are not an obvious pair, and for the life of me I have yet to find a great way to get them to work together.
So, I shelved my revisions until I could find a way to fix this problem it out and started a crochet project instead. This is avoidance behavior at its finest. Now that I’ve taken a break and let the problem stew for a while I think I’ve found a way to fix it. I’ll need to write it out and see if it will work.
My new pair of slippers, I love the flowers!
A cozy tam for the colder weather
On a happy note, I did manage to finish and package up a short science fiction story for submission to a few magazines. I’m crossing my fingers that all goes well, this is my first time submitting to a professional market that isn’t a contest. If all goes well, I plan on doing more short stories for magazines. ‘
For the month of December I plan to pick up the manuscript once again, fix the plotting problem and continue revisions. I would still love to finish this round by the end of the year, but it looks like it might take a bit longer.