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.

Immortal-works.png

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!

squee-gif-8.gif

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 –

Elsa-and-Anna-image-elsa-and-anna-36263695-245-140.gif

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

***

Don’t want to miss a thing? Neither do I! Make sure to follow this blog using the handy buttons on the right. You can also follow me on Twitter @JodiLMilner and over on Facebook.

Want to connect? Comment below or find me on one of my other social media feeds, I’d love to say Hi!

 

Advertisements

Inspiration Online

With everything else going on in my life, chances are I’m not going to be able to take a flight around the world anytime soon to seek out inspiration from places that are similar to the settings featured in my book. Medieval castles and villages are hard to come by here in the West.  The oldest things around here are indian cliff settlements which while fascinating, aren’t what I need.

I’m lucky in some ways, mountains and forests do feature prominently in by book and I happen to live within one of the most stunning mountain ranges in the US. They don’t call them the Rocky Mountains for nothing.

For everything else I’m stuck with the wonders of the internet and I have to admit I’m getting pretty good at finding pictures and videos that help me better envision the places my characters find themselves.

If you would like to check out a few of the things that inspire me, check out my Inspitation for Writing Pinterest board.

Here’s one of my favorite finds:

Hambye Abbey

Hambye Abbey – I love the pillars and the play of light across the grass.

 

Waiting for Perspective

I am now two weeks into a self imposed six week break away from my manuscript and random scenes and characters are still wandering through my head.  Taking a break between drafts is important because it helps me regain needed perspective and distance. While writing I get too close to the story and can no longer see what’s on the page as compared to what’s in my head.  The best way to overcome this is time away.

800px-Sharpened_PencilTaking a break doesn’t come without a downside. The other night one of my characters brought up a plot error, an action that didn’t make sense for the character in question. I wanted him to be wrong and ignore the problem but he wouldn’t let me alone. I didn’t pull out the manuscript, I know that’s what he wanted, so over the course of the day I mentally worked over the problem until something clicked. If I didn’t, I know he wouldn’t let me sleep.

Even with random characters haunting my steps, being away from the book has been a welcome change. I’ve finally had the time to work on some of my smaller projects and see progress there. The one short story I’ve been editing is only a few pages from turning itself into a novella if I’m not careful. My goal is to have it finished and submitted to a few markets for publication before I return to work on the book. 

For the next four weeks I’m looking forward to continuing work on my short stories and taking a bit of a break before diving back into the gritty process of refining and editing the manuscript. After this draft it will be ready for beta readers! As much as if terrifies me, I’m looking forward to getting some real world feedback.

Writing Update – July

upward graph

As expected, July turned out to be hot and busy. Between plenty of family activities and long days home with kids, it was hard to consistently find time to work on my book.  Even with these challenges the word count rose from around 57,500 words to 72,000 words – a net increase of 14,500 words or about 60 pages, and that deserves a happy dance all around. A good part of these words were salvaged from an earlier draft and edited to fit the new needs of the current draft. The rest are new scenes written to round out the story.

These pages contain both the action climax and the emotional climax of the book, and have been a bear to work on. I owe my family an apology for the days I was mentally withdrawn as I worked through some of the emotions myself.  Part of me feels bad about what happens to my characters, I have put them through the wringer and there’s not much I’ve given them as a reward.  During future editing I’m going to have to make sure that the payout for completing their quest is enough or my readers might end up throwing the book against a wall. 

I’m excited to have reached this point in writing Stonebearer’s Betrayal. At this pace, I should finish this draft during the month of August and be that much closer to publication. After this, I’ll begin the more detailed and painstaking work of filing down the rough edges and filling in gaps and holes, of which I already know there are many.  

Between this draft and the next, I’m looking forward to taking a break for a few weeks and working on some short fiction to submit to magazines and contests.  I’ve collected a few fun ideas that I hope will turn into some great fiction.  

Until next month,  happy writing!

Meet the Cast: Alystra

picture-of-judi-dench-in-the-chronicles-of-riddick-large-pictureSo far, in the Meet the Cast series of posts,  we’ve met the hero, villian, and the hero’s friend.  Today we are going to explore a vital member of the supporting cast.

In the society of the immortal Stonebearers there are three towers that govern the three distinct areas of the world.  Alystra holds the high seat of the mountain tower. As senior of the three leaders of the towers she also holds power and influence over the other two.  It is her duty to command and protect the Stonebearers within her order and through them ensure the safety of the mortal world.  Both Jarand and Bremin are members of her order.

As leader she must embody the Stonebearer ideals, which include; grace, loyalty, duty, mercy, and humility. She must be resourceful and fair.  If a Stonebearer of her order has broken his oaths, she must determine their fate.

If I were to chose an actress to play Alystra, it would have to be the esteemed Dame Judi Dench.  In all of her roles she displays the perfect blend of power, control, and restrained passion.  Her characters also display a certain vulnerability and depth that makes them even more appealing.

 

 

 

 

Writing Update – June

stock-images-colorful-business-3d-graph-12160483

June marked the start of summer vacation for the kids and a lot less undisturbed time for me.  It felt I spent most of the month spent finding balance between housework,  playing with the kids, and finding time for me to continue working on my story. Still, I ended the month with the manuscript heavier by a surprising additional 22,000 words, bringing the total to about 57,500 words. Even with challenges, I managed to crank through roughly 88 pages.  I’m thrilled.

At last I feel like I’m making some real progress.  For the longest time  I wasn’t sure about where the story needed to go or how to get it there. Now, with this month’s work, the story and it’s characters are gaining momentum and I can see where it needs to go.

Writing a first novel is much harder than it looks, you are not only discovering your characters and the story, but you are also discovering yourself as a writer.  It’s taken years to find what techniques work best for me.  Looking back the solution seems obvious now.  If I could have figured out my style of working earlier I could have saved myself a huge amount of time.

Along with the progress made on the manuscript, June marks the first time I’ve received a formal rejection letter for a short story submitted to a contest.  Although I would have loved it if my story were accepted, receiving a rejection is a milestone every writer must face.  Having one says I’m submitting and putting my work out there.  It won’t be the last rejection letter I receive and in time there will be acceptances as well.

I’m looking forward to July with its heat and long days.  If I can make the same amount of progress that I did in June then I’m on track for finishing this draft by the end of summer.  After that, the bulk of the work is done and I can start focusing on detail work and really making it shine.

I can’t wait.

Meet the Villain: Wrothe

No story is complete without a good villian. In my book, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, the immortal Jarand has got one heck of an enemy.  Not only is she beautiful, she is both cunning, deadly, and a little insane.  The powerful demoness Wrothe is bent on taking her revenge and will stop at nothing until get gets it.  In this world twelve demons haunt the land, causing trouble wherever they go.  One of the duties of the Stonebearers is to protect the public against them.  Wrothe is different from the other Demons, she targets immortals as her victims.  She craves their power and will stop at nothing to get it.

Tarja

The face I’ve found that most closely matches my Wrothe is the fabulous Tarja Turunen best known for being the vocalist of the Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish. She has now moved on to a solo career and is starting her Colours In the Dark World Tour in October of this year.  Unfortunantly, she won’t be hitting any US locations this round, maybe next time.

Meet the Cast: Bremin

JeremyIrons

For every hero there is the friend who makes it possible for him to succeed.  In the Stonebearer’s story one of the most important members of the supporting cast is Bremin.

Bremin is the clever, quick-witted, sharp-tongued friend to our hero, Jarand.  They’ve known each other for over three hundred years.  He has traveled the world many times over gathering knowledge to aid his fellow Stonebearers.  If there is a plot against them, he will uncover it.  In his travels he has also become very skilled in healing, picking locks, setting traps, and plenty of other skills, making him an extremely useful fellow to have around.

Bremin does have a weakness, he is very limited in what he can do with his power.  This fact has made him very humble, but also bitter.  He compensates for his weakness with his knowledge.

Out of all the characters in the book, Bremin was the easiest to find a face for.  Jeremy Irons is the perfect fit.  He comes across as someone who knows a lot but won’t offer his opinion until it is asked for.  He also projects a profound depth to his characters.  The fact that he also has played similar characters in several fantasy movies seals the deal.

The Search is Over

Oh happy day!  For the past three years I’ve been working on this story and, up until this week, had yet to find a good face to put on my main character Jarand, an immortal Stonebearer. I needed a face that looked neither old or young. He also has a presence about him, an inner strength that radiates out.  He is noble and mighty but has a troubled past and an uncertain future.  So many elements make his character complex, I never thought I would find a face to match.

Imagine my surprise while watching Les Miserables in Concert when everything I had been looking for walked onto the screen and began to sing with a sensitivity and earnestness that brought tears to my eyes.  I’ve loved the music from Les Mis since I was a little girl singing along to cassettes in the car with my mom.  As I grew older that love grew into a keen interest in the history of revolutionary France.  In college I attempted to read the unabridged novel, but after three renewals from the library they wouldn’t let me check it out anymore.  I’ve since bought the book but haven’t yet attempted to start reading it again.

alfie01

Meet Alfie Boe, amazing tenor and star of the 25th Anniversary Les Miserables in Concert, playing none other than the unconquerable Jean Valjean.  His performance embodies everything I’ve been looking for in Jarand.  Whether or not he’s like that in person I will never know.

One day I hope you all will get to know Jarand and his story in my novel Stonebearer’s Betrayal.