Book Review: Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Beautiful prose, an amazing story, fascinating characters, Strange the Dreamer delivered an experience above and beyond my expectations. When a fellow writer, who also loves all the pretty words, gushes about a book, you know you have to go read it. A huge thank you to Candace for recommending it, you can go check out her review here.

The Story

Lazlo Strange, an orphan child raised by monks and librarians, possesses an unusual passion for a legend that most dismiss as a fairy tale. He dreams of a place called Weep, an unusual city held under an unusual curse – anyone who speaks or thinks the name of the city experiences a feeling of dread paired with the taste of ashes. But, unlike other people, Lazlo remembers a time when the town had a different name, a beautiful name that filled the mind with wonder and butterfly wings. He also remembers the day when that name was stolen from him.

It is this theft that drives him to study everything there is to know about Weep. He hopes that one day he can find that name that once filled him with so much delight. As he grows older, it is this study that gives him a unique understanding of the legendary city. When a delegation from Weep visits his city seeking adventurers and scientists, Lazlo feels compelled to go with them – and despite his lack of real skills, is allowed because he knows stories. The leader of this delegation, none other than Eril-Fane the Godslayer himself, seeks the best scientists to rid Weep of the floating citadel shaped like a massive seraphim who’s outstretched wings prevent sunlight from reaching the city.

When Lazlo reaches Weep he encounters a strange blue girl in his dreams named Sarai. Lazlo doesn’t know that this is a marking of the cursed godspawn and the two of them instantly form a bond that is beyond friendship. His glorious imagined vision of Weep fills her with such delight that she can’t help but want to be part of it and the man who envisioned a world filled with so much joy and magic.

Naturally, none of this can last. Every element that brings Lazlo and Sarai together will be challenged. Eril-Fane wants the citadel which is Sarai’s home, destroyed. One of the scientists, Thyon Nero, is determined to undermine Lazlo’s every step. Minya, Sarai’s sister, wants Eril-Fane and all that dare threaten the citadel including Lazlo, dead, and wants Sarai to do it using her godspawn power over dreams.

Does anyone get what they want? In the way that only a truly masterful storyteller can manage it, the answer is both yes and no. I won’t elaborate further. No spoilers for you. But, if you’re dying to find out, here’s an amazing synopsis that covers literally everything.

My Review

This book blew me away. I’m a huge sucker for gorgeous prose and metaphorical language, not to mention amazing sensory detail, so all the poetic phrases were indeed welcome. In fact, I loved it so much that I immediately sought out the sequel, Muse of Nightmares.

With fantasy titles there comes an expectation of a complex storyline. While Strange the Dreamer has a complex story, the reading experience doesn’t feel complicated. The story alternates between Sarai and Lazlo’s experiences and as they draw closer together, the experiences draw closer as well. The main conflicts are always clear in the characters mind so as readers we know not only what that character wants, but why it’s important.

What does feel complicated is how the prose is assembled. While most fantasy titles published today stick almost exclusively to third-person limited, where we witness the story through the eyes and experience of the main character in third-person, Strange the Dreamer swings in and out of omniscient. This is usually frowned upon, mostly because when done poorly it’s jarring and distracting – and it’s almost always done poorly. For Strange the Dreamer, it feels right. We flow from one character’s thoughts to the next and the technique in Taylor’s hands gives the prose a very appropriate dream-like feel.

The characters were expertly created to be not only unique and well constructed, but unusual enough in each of their motivations to give the story multiple layers of interest. There’s not an ordinary character in the entire book, and that’s impressive for an epic of this size. In addition, the settings were also crafted with the same amount of care making them not only unique, but supremely interesting as well.

So yeah. I’m kind of in love.

My Recommendations

This book is still in YA fiction, but it reads much older than that. The recommended reading age starts at 9th grade, and I agree. There’s just enough adult themes and yearning that it might be harder for younger readers to relate with. There’s no swearing, minimal and appropriate gore, and it does tease at nudity, but never actually gets there. The kissing scenes do get quite descriptive, but don’t progress to anything more.

I mentioned gorgeous poetic prose throughout the book. This might make it harder for those who struggle with metaphoric language to enjoy the story, simply because everything is drenched in it. It also slows down the pacing enough to frustrate those who really want to see what happens next. For me, this wasn’t a problem because the beauty of the journey was just as rewarding as getting there.

Also, if you don’t like fantasy because there are elements that are hard to believe, you might struggle here as well. All significant story elements are anchored in entirely speculative elements. However, all of the motivation is strictly tied to realistic emotional responses which humanizes the unfamiliar and makes it all easier to digest.

I give Strange the Dreamer a rare 5/5 for excelling in all critical storytelling elements and doing it beautifully.


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Book Review: The Fork, The Witch, and The Worm, by Christopher Paolini

The full title of this book is as follows (this is important later, so pay attention):

The Fork, The Witch, and the Worm: Tales from Alagaesia, volume 1: Eragon

Pretentious much? Not only does this title promise that there will be more of these, but from differing characters as well. This book is a tiny thing, especially when compared to the other Paolini books. It’s slightly bigger than my hand and the text and margins inside are both abnormally large. The publisher wanted this to look longer than it actually is. I don’t know about you, but that feels a lot like lying to the reader. Not cool.

The book itself looks for all the world like it should be a novel – meaning a single cohesive story. It’s not. I should have read the title closer where it said “tales” as that was the only hint that this book is actually an anthology. This makes lie #2 in my book. If you read the title page and acknowledgements, you learn that Paolini’s sister wrote the second of the three stories.

The Witch part of the story, “On the Nature of Stars,” is hers and her name isn’t mentioned anywhere on the cover. Rude.

Do I have strong feelings about this? Yes. Yes I do.

The Story…?

There are three distinct short stories within this book and each one is named in the title. The first, “A Fork in the Road,” centers around a young girl who has been bullied and ends up telling her story to a stranger enjoying the fire at her parent’s tavern. The stranger ends up being something more than he seems and gives the girl a fork while teaching her a lesson that even the littlest things can make a difference. It’s a nice little story and has one of the main cast of the Inheritance series playing the role of the stranger, which isn’t revealed until the end.

The witch part, “On the Nature of Stars,” is a bit stranger. It takes the characters of Angela the healer and Elva, the girl Eragon inadvertently cursed, and fills in a chunk of the story where they go off together. So … it’s fanfiction. We get to see Angela get her own point of view, which is a nice change, and we see an effort to make things better for Elva, which was something I always thought should have happened in the original story. This story is one of the better bits of the book. Well done, Angela Paolini. Yes, Christopher borrowed her name when he wrote the character of Angela the Healer initially. I find it almost too on the nose that Angela, the writer, chose to dive deeper into that character. But that’s just me.

Then, there’s “The Worm of Kulkaras” which the scene depicted on the cover. I had high hopes that this would be an awesome dragon story. And … it’s not. The story is about Ilgra, an Anointed Urgal (they are the one’s with horns) seeking revenge after a dragon killed her father then took up residence on the nearby mountain.

These three stories are connected by a narrative led by Eragon himself as he works to make Mount Arngor the new home for the surviving dragons and to protect their eggs. Each of these stories are presented to him to help him cope as he struggles with the pressures of leadership.

My Review

I wanted to love this, I really did. I wanted to be able to fall into the story, or stories as it were, and relive a taste of the larger story contained in the Inheritance Cycle. Instead, I found the forced construction of having Eragon trying to fit these three stories into his narrative uninspired and clunky. He starts the story overwhelmed and tired and being a bad leader because he can’t take a break. The random stories are forced on him to teach him how to be a better leader, kind of, and he feels magically better for having experienced each one, even though we don’t really see him internalize anything. In the end, he’s a calmer, happier person but hasn’t overcome anything major other than being bad at managing his own time.

As for the three stories, the one that captured my imagination the most was the one written by Angela. There is an otherworldly quality to the descriptions and how the story unfolds as we are seeing the world from a character who has always been a bit of a mystery. The writing is evocative, the danger and stakes meaningful, and the characters interesting.

The other two short stories didn’t leave much of an impression. The main character of “A Fork in the Road” is a whiny girl who was forced to do a mean thing out of peer pressure and lost a friend for it. From the start, this isn’t a story I’m super interested in. I was supposed to get some lovely magic and wonder and instead I got a story that teaches young people to be brave by winning a barfight with magic and a fork.

As for the dragon story. Sigh. I get what Paolini was trying to do by writing it in a new voice to match the storytelling cadence of the Urgals, but it was downright irritating. Each sentence followed the same construction of using a prepositional phrase before completing the thought.

Literally. Every. Single. Sentence.

Sidenote: When I was a younger writer, I thought that particular construction made the words feel more important and artsy and tended to use it far more than anyone should. Several years and multiple editors later, I’ve learned better.

That, and I felt cheated by the climax. The story spent way too long building up to one ending and then pulled a rabbit out of the hat by throwing in something the reader had no idea was a threat. There was some nice action there, but the main character gets cheated by not getting the thing they wanted or the thing they actually needed. What she got instead was for the dragon to not think she was nothing, which was never an explored theme of the story.

My Recommendations

If you love Paolini and were hoping for something that broadened his created universe, this might book will leave you frustrated. There’s just enough there to tease at a few cool possibilities of something, but it left me wanting. For those diehard fans, the places it connects with existing characters were nice, but not substantial and not nearly enough.

As for it being an interesting fantasy book, if you hadn’t read the other Eragon books, the interconnecting narrative doesn’t have enough substance to stand on its own and the short stories aren’t super compelling.

It’s clean and the violence is typical for a YA fantasy.

I give The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm 2/5 stars for failing me on so many levels but having a few nice bits of writing.

Stonebearer’s Apprentice is Here!

I’m so dumbfounded that this book actually got finished, got through editing, and got onto the virtual shelves, that I’m not quite sure how I arrived here at today. This book was a team effort. My family and production team have been so supportive in these last months as all the last pieces of this project were pulled together.

Here’s my heart’s warmest thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way. You are what made this possible.

About Stonebearer’s Apprentice

The story of Stonebearer’s Apprentice begins a few weeks after the end of Stonebearer’s Betrayal. Katira is adjusting to her new home at the tower of Amul Dun, her new responsibilities, and trying to come to terms with her new life. After all that’s happened, she welcomes the promised safety of Amul Dun and it’s magically protected walls.

Which makes it all the more shocking when Katira finds herself targeted once again. This time, however, she’s no longer the helpless girl she once was. There is a power inside her that she must learn to control. If she doesn’t, it could kill her.

That is if the traitor in the tower doesn’t find a way to kill her first.

Katira’s only hope is to master her power. Her apprenticeship tests not only her strength and courage, but her determination to do what is necessary as well. If she fails, she won’t be able to protect the people she’s come to love.

Get yours today!

Head on over to Amazon to grab your copy, Stonebearer’s Apprentice is available in both ebook and paperback. Even better, if you are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, you can grab this title for free.

If you missed reading Stonebearer’s Betrayal, grab an ebook for free this weekend from June 12-16. My gift to you!


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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.

Stonebearer’s Apprentice Ebook Now Available for Preorder!

It’s official! The ebook of Stonebearer’s Apprentice, the second book in the Shadow Barrier Trilogy, is now available to preorder. Squee!

Putting the finishing touches on this project couldn’t have come at a more dramatic time. Important decisions about final edits, cover text, and marketing had to happen in the cracks left between the extra work needed to help my kiddos get their school work done. I imagine many of you are just as relieved as I am that the school year is over.

Which means … it’s reading and relaxing time!

Better still, if you missed the first book in the series, now’s is a great time to grab it as well. The ebook is only $2.99, and is also part of the Kindle Unlimited program. (Just a secret between you and me, I’ll also be giving it away for free from June 12-16 as part of the celebration during the release of book two.)

Paperback lovers never fear! I’m taking care of you as well. You can grab your Stonebearer’s Apprentice paperback on the official release day June 12. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you. If you also wanted the paperback copy of book one, now is a brilliant time to grab it. Currently it’s listed at about $6 on Amazon. I’m not sure how long that will last. If you want to treat yourself, grab it before the price goes up.

Click here to preorder Stonebearer’s Apprentice!


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.

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.


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. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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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)


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. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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Movie Review: Frozen II

Would you look at that! I actually made it to a movie while it was still in the theaters. As a Christmas treat, my family went to see Frozen 2. I think I was probably more excited about it than my kids. I LOVED everything about Frozen and had high hopes for the sequel.

The story

At the end of Frozen, Anna and Elsa have finally rebuilt their relationship as loving sisters and have overcome Elsa’s fear of her unique magic. In the process, they also showed Hans that true love is far more powerful than greed. It was a wonderfully well-balanced story that rocked between humor and powerful moments of self-realization.

Frozen 2 picks up a few years later. We kick off the story with a prologue showing Anna and Elsa as adorable little girls. The King tells them a bedtime story about how the elemental spirits were angered and formed a magical barrier locking everyone out of the Enchanted Forest. Yes, it’s literally called that. Using a prologue like this is important, because it makes it feel like this new story line always existed, even before the success of Frozen 1.

What would have been more effective is if they managed to make some cryptic mention of the mist-shrouded Enchanted Forest in the first movie, but I digress.

Fast forward to several years after the events of Frozen 1 and we see Anna, Elsa, Cristoff, and Olaf generally enjoying life as grownups. Elsa starts hearing a magical call that no one else can hear. After repeated attempts to ignore it, she bursts out into the song intended to be this film’s version of “Let it Go.” It even happens at the same point in the film. For my writer friends, this is the inciting incident. The whole movie is very literally textbook Hero’s Journey, if you keep track of things like that.

I don’t do spoilers, so let the vagueness begin.

Elsa is determined to find out where the call is coming from so she sets out on a quest. Anna insists on coming. Ever since the whole frozen heart incident, she’s pretty dead set on staying by Elsa’s side – forever. (see what I did there?) They set off with Cristoff and Olaf and by the virtue of Elsa’s powers are able to get through the mist.

One revelation follows another until we reach an epic showdown where both Anna and Elsa are in very real mortal danger. To survive, they must resolve a conflict that started years before either of them were born, the heart of the problem behind the formation of the mist.

My Review

There was so much potential for this movie to be amazing . When it came to beautiful animation, stunning settings, and engaging characters, this film truly did have all the elements of what could have been an amazing experience. However, there was so much crammed in there, that the movie ended up falling flat for me. It was simply trying too hard.

For me, the complexity killed it. Not only do we have a much larger cast, but also two distinct cultures in addition to the people of Arendelle. We meet the people to the north which are the equivalent to an indigenous tribe and the elemental powers belonging to a mysterious magical island isolated in the North Sea. Even as a seasoned storyist, I struggled to remember who was doing what and why.

There’s also a whole lot of more mature angst. Olaf has this running gag about what it must be like to be old and mature because he’s figuratively still only a few years old. He sings a song about it, surprise. Cristoff is trying to propose to Anna and failing over and over, and he sings a song about it as well. Yep, that’s the one you’ve probably heard about, the 80s rock ballad. Anna and Elsa struggle with the death of their parents and trying to protect each other and Arendelle, and both sing a lot about it. And then there’s the angst of all the secondary characters as well. Like I said. Complex.

Does all this angst get resolved? Come on, this is Disney. Of course it does. Are the solutions ingenious and surprising, but still make sense? I’ll give that a solid 60%. They hint at the solution hoards of times so when it happens it’s like, duh.

In Frozen 1, the themes were “love conquers fear” with a splash of “follow your heart.” In Frozen 2, they beat you over the head with the theme as “take the next right step.” It’s not as compelling to say the least.

My Recommendations

I would recommend this movie to those who fell in love with the characters of the original movie and are happy to just see them again. They’ve grown up, developed their personalities and interests, and have become more complex and interesting people. Those who love folklore and magical origins and lots of familial angst, this movie will definitely scratch that itch is well.

Honestly, it’s not a bad movie. It just doesn’t have the same kind of punch as the first. But I would warn those who were hoping for a similar mind-blowing powerful experience as the first movie, that you might be disappointed. They tried to shoehorn in so much that it felt forced and even, dare I say, gimmicky.

I rate Frozen II 3 out of 5 stars


Psst! It’s cover reveal week for the rerelease of Stonebearer’s Betrayal – here’s a sneak peek! Launch day is January 2nd, and preorders will open soon!

Quite possibly the best Christmas present ever. Too bad it hits the digital shelves Jan 2…

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. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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

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.


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. Or, even better, sign up to be part of my mailing list.

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

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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