About Jodi

I'm an aspiring novelist working in fantasy and suspense, for now. I also have two pretty awesome blogs! http://myliteraryquest.wordpress.com and https://jodilmilnerauthor.wordpress.com

2018 Reading List

While lots of people spend hours, if not days, deciding on goals for the new year. I spend days figuring out my reading list. It’s a very involved process that includes pouring over “Books You Must Read Before You Die” lists, searching through releases by fellow author friends, and finding the lost desperate papery souls on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list.

51jWBJa-X-L._SX345_BO1,204,203,200_Then there’s all the hot new books from 2017 that I probably missed… When you’ve got kids home more often than not, quality reading time is hard to find.

Out of the fifty or so titles making up the preliminary list, only twenty-four can survive the final cut. Twelve fiction. Twelve non fiction. Could I read more? Yes, absolutely. However, the best part of the reading experience is spending time sinking into a story and relishing each page. I can’t do that if I’m stressing out about finishing in time.

January’s selections are Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style – reviews to come, stay tuned!

2018 (Mostly) Fiction Titles. Drum roll, please:

Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
Man from Shenandoah – Marsha Ward
Heroes of the Valley – Jonathan Stroud
A Darker Shade of Magic – V E Schwab
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Looking for Alaska – John Green
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan A Safran Foer
Forest of Hands and Teeth – Carrie Ryan
Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
Never Let me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

2018 Non Fiction Titles. Kazoo chorus, please:

The Question of God – Armand M Nicholi, Jr
Worlds of Wonder: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy – David Gerrold
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
Stiff: Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
Lucifer Principle – Howard Bloom
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves – Lynne Truss
Power Cues – Nick Morgan
The Gift of Fear– Gavin De Becker
Rules for a Knight – Ethan Hawke
Be Different – John Elder Robison

3264344How about you, dear reader? What titles have made your “Must be read” list this year?

Have you read any of the books on my list? If so, what did you think?

Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Don’t like missing out? Of course not. Neither do I. If you’d like to be notified of new posts be sure to like and subscribe to the blog posts here, or leave a like at my Facebook page.

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Achievement Unlocked – Book Contract!

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.

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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!

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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.

It’s real.

And I’m like –

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And now the real work starts to make this book as awesome as possible. Stay tuned for more updates!

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Being Happy with Your “Now” You

forest-autumn-fall-trees-stone-colors-leaves-beautiful-wallpapers-hd-1280x768.jpgI got a rejection this morning. Another one. The ninth in six weeks.

Was I upset? Absolutely. I let myself be angry for about five minutes. I may have punched the mattress a few times.

It’s after times like these I get a bit introspective. That, and I’ve got a birthday coming up. It’s almost impossible to not think about what I’ve done with my life so far. Have I made the difference in the world that I hoped for this year?

This past year has been hugely different from previous years. In November 2016, I sent out my first query letter seeking a publisher for my first novel. This process is not for the weak at heart. Every time I hit send, I put this book into someone else’s hands hoping they will see in it the potential I do.

Then comes the waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

This is not calm, patient waiting. This is anxiety gripping at the throat waiting. Any minute an email might come that will change everything. It’s tense business. It’s hard to go on living a normal life and not be forever staring at my phone waiting for that notification to come through.

After five and six and ten and fourteen rejections you’d think I’d get numb to it. And I have, a little. You are forced to distance yourself from your project and see it as something other than your baby.

At the same time, it’s hard to not take rejection personally and not have feelings of worthlessness creep in when my project I’ve thrown my soul into is rejected time and time again.

What does this have to do with happiness? Nothing. Everything.

If this year has taught me anything it’s that happiness has nothing to do with what is happening around you and to you. Good things happen, bad things happen. Should you depend on your circumstances to determine your mood, you are cursed to live a life that looks like a roller coaster.  The only constant in your life is you. If you can’t find happiness in your own skin, what makes you think you can find it anywhere else?

There has been one other significant change in my life this past year. My youngest now goes to school everyday. I didn’t realize what a difference it makes when I can take care of myself instead of living in survival mode. You can’t be happy if you are living in survival mode. You are just trying to not drown as the next wave comes.

It’s been a long year, and an educational one. Between finally getting some “me” time and learning to accept endless rejection, I’ve found a weird happiness.

I’m okay with the me I am. And that’s just fine.

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How have you found your happiness? Share in the comments below! Don’t forget to “like” and “subscribe” so you don’t miss out on future posts.

 

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-CoverIt’s the end of October. For many writers it’s the time to sharpen our brains and finish up prep for this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge. I’ve done the challenge for several years in different ways ranging from full manuscripts and partial manuscripts, down to editing and revision goals. While I’d love to be in a good place to dig into the third and final book of my Stonebearer series this year, I only barely finished the very rough draft of the completed second novel last week.

My real reason for not doing NaNoWriMo this year is simple – experience. I know my working habits and how much I can do before developing a serious case of writer burnout. It’s taken a few decades to learn I’m a hugely competitive person with myself. If I set a goal I kill myself to go get it.

For my first NaNoWriMo in 2010, I crossed the finish line an exhausted wreck. At that point in my life I had one fewer child and more free time and energy than I have now.  Immediately after finishing, I continued to blog and did an editing pass of my first manuscript that I had finished a few weeks before NaNoWriMo started. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it.

I learned I am not invincible when baby #3 came around in the Fall of 2011. All my time disappeared and with it, most of my energy. I stopped writing for over a year. When NaNoWriMo rolled around I watched wistfully as other writer friends whipped themselves into an excited frenzy to work on a new project. I would still set a goal, goals are good, usually to finish the revisions on my first book baby and for years not much happened.

It wasn’t until 2015 when I felt ready to attempt writing the sequel. I had both older kids in elementary school and the youngest in preschool. It was literally the first year since 2010 where I had a handful of hours free during the week.

It wasn’t enough time. I stressed myself out. Four free hours a week isn’t enough to do NaNoWriMo. My writing crept into family time and evenings and occupied every moment it could like an overfed goldfish in a bowl. But, apparently I’m very competitive. I had to finish the 50,000 words. And I did. And then I shelved the uncompleted project for nearly a year.

This year, I’m okay with working at my current pace. I have projects underway that I like and am moving at a pace that I can keep up with while maintaining a good work/life balance. If by next year I haven’t started the third book of the trilogy, which I doubt, then perhaps I’ll make it my 2018 project.

And that’s totally okay.

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Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? I’d love to talk about it in the comments!

LUW Fall Conference 2017

LUW logo.pngAround these parts, writers are drawn to writing conferences more readily and faster than cats chasing a laser pointer. For those of us who have been around for a few years, a writing conference is a great excuse to hang out with our awesome writer friends and claim it as a business expense. For newer writers, a writing conference is a place to find new friends and feel supported all while learning the tricks of the trade.

The League of Utah writers held their annual conference October 6-7.  Even better, they let me come play. I got to moderate a panel titled “Mindfulness and the Modern Author” where we explored the importance of finding your center and using mindfulness techniques to acheive greater focus and more importantly, get more and better words on the page. On the panel with me were Jef Huntsman, Peggy Eddleman, Lauri Schoenfeld, Amanda Luzzader, and Dan Allen. If you are nice to me, I might do a blog post about the  key points in the future.

LUW 2017 panelOne of the other perks once you’ve been around for a while is the chance to volunteer. On a whim I asked to help out and the next thing I knew, I was in charge of the special guest check-ins in the green room. Major Score. I got to spend the majority of my conference doing what I like best, having conversations with some of my favorite local authors, including our keynote Kevin J Anderson. I also had access to the best snacks.

While I didn’t get to go to as many classes as I would have liked, I did get to go to a few. DK Godard did an amazing presentation on the use of ballistics gel and let us play with some that he brought. Liesl Seborg taught about how authors can get involved with their local libraries, Patrick Tracy did a mini workshop on flash fiction and let us play with some random generated story prompts. I wrote a story about an astronaut waking up from a medical hypersleep and being hit on by an alien who thinks he’s cute. He rejects her because he’s still tired. I might just post it here if I get brave enough. There was also an insightful lecture given by John Patten about leadership for those in the league in leadership positions, including myself, one of their chapter presidents.

All in all, a terrific conference, fabulous guests, good food, and good memories.

SQ Magazine

Featured

The Skull Collector is best described as a mash up between The Hunger Games and Moana and is one of my favorite short stories I’ve written to date. Even better, you can read it for free.

Printed in Speculative Quarterly International Magazine (SQ Mag) Edition 31.

A Querying I will Go!

IMG_5208It’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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