A Book’s First Breath

If you’ve read my latest Wilderhark Tale (or snuck a preview of the next installment in the series), you know I love me some fantastic elementals. For that reason, the opening story in upcoming fantasy anthology “The Toll of Another Bell” struck a particular chord with me.

For my stop on the “Toll” blog tour, I have the pleasure of presenting an interview with that story’s creator. Give it up, readers all, for Jodi L. Milner, author of “Breath”!

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Me: Regale us with the tale of your decision to submit to Xchyler Pub’s fantasy anthology. Did you have the idea for “Breath” in mind beforehand, or did you craft it especially for the contest’s theme: “Out of This World… True Story”?

Jodi: “Breath” was one of those stories that flowed out of the ether back in 2013. I had to write it down but then didn’t know what to do with it. When I saw Xchyler’s call for entries for their fantasy line I felt it was worth a try, and I’m super glad I did. Being part of the X team has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my writing career.

Me: Which of your story’s characters is your favorite? …shows up most clearly in your head? …was easiest/most difficult to write?

Jodi: Wow, this is tricky. Each of my characters represents one of the world’s creative elements, earth, wind, water, fire, and life. If forced to pick, I’d say my favorite of the bunch is Terran, the earth guardian. He’s the strong silent type, and I find those very appealing. The most fun to write were the twins, Ventus and Aquata, the air and water guardians. Fauna, the main character was the hardest to write because I felt enormous pressure to make her emotional responses feel authentic.

Me: Your own contribution aside, which of the stories from “The Toll of Another Bell” did you most enjoy reading?

Jodi: Again, that’s tough. Each story is so very different that it would be unfair to select a favorite. In this anthology you can find everything from whimsy to horror, and so many different facets in between. The writing is excellent (if I’m allowed to judge) and reading through its pages is a journey that will not soon be forgotten.

Me: Is “Breath” your debut published work?

Jodi: Yes, “Breath” is my first baby to grow wings and take flight and it has been so thrilling that I can’t wait to publish again.

Me: Whilst creeping on one of your blogs, I saw you’ve got a trilogy planned – the Stonebearer Series. What can you tell us about that? ^^

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Jodi: I think most authors have that one project in the background that they always keep working at with hopes that one day their talent will grow to match the ambition and scope required to do it justice. The Stonebearer Series is mine.  It is my first serious attempt at writing an epic fantasy novel series and hopefully one day I’ll feel it’s ready to be published as well.  The story itself is wrapped around a world where a secret society of immortal magic users is challenged by a demon who threatens to push it into extinction.

Author Bio:

Jodi Milner lives among the most epic vistas of the Rocky Mountains in Utah and uses them for inspiration when writing fantasy. When not shepherding her children, she dreams of magic and getting a good night’s sleep. She’s published fiction and poetry in the online literary magazine Soft Whispers.

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Jodi L. Milner, one talent of many (including yours truly) featured in “The Toll of Another Bell”!

For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic!
^ For my thoughts on the full anthology, click the pic! ^

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The book is currently up for preorder! There’s a tour-wide giveaway happening here and now, and the anthology’s Release Party is this Saturday; I hope to see you all there for the fun and games!

A Review Miraculously Free of Bell Puns

Be proud of me. I thought of two such puns without hardly trying. But seriously, folks…

The Book: “The Toll of Another Bell”, edited by McKenna Gardner.

Genre: Fantasy short story anthology.

Blurb: A collection of out-of-this-world short stories that ring true in mortal hearts.

The Toll of Another Bell

“Breath” by Jodi L. Milner: The Guardian of Souls realizes her life is incomplete and sacrifices everything to find what’s missing.

“Awareness” by Timothy Vincent: To achieve the status of Magi, Jyn must pass his father’s ultimate test.

“Phoenix” by Elise Stephens: Orion loses his wife on their wedding day and uses dark magic to seek her in the afterlife.

“Life Under Research Conditions” by Thaxson Patterson II: Can a bioweapon possess a soul and make choices to save humanity?

“The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet: A miraculous colt and a mysterious old man bring healing to a family ripped apart by tragedy.

“Naoki No Yokai” by F.M. Longo: Yokai have overrun a local village, and it’s up to Saga Naoki to discover the reason why.

“Jilted River” by Ginger Mann: An Appalachian fairy tale attracts visitors to a state park, but then they start to disappear.

“Tower Gods” by J.R. Potter: A thirteen-year-old boy with an oxygen mask befits the role of hero in Watcher Benson’s eyes.

“Reality As We Know It” by Danielle E. Shipley: Where otherworldly magic fails, is Row’s friendship enough to mend Singer’s grieving heart?

“60 Seconds to Midnight” by TC Phillips: Fleeing an ancient evil, a young woman from amongst the stars finds unlikely refuge on Earth.

My Thoughts: As one would hope of a fantasy-themed collection, “Toll” displays a vast diversity of imagination. But more than only stories to tickle your flights of fancy, these are, on the whole, stories to make you feel. Stories where the pain of what’s lost is but one turn away from the finding of something more.

Some highlights for me as a reader included Jodi L. Milner’s elemental myth “Breath”; the humor winking from F.M. Longo’s tale of spies and samurai, “Naoki no Yokai”; and “Phoenix”, Elise Stephens’ modern retelling of the Orpheus/Eurydice tragedy, the prose holding my heart like a melancholy song. There’s more powerful music to be discovered when a family goes up against a siren in Ginger Mann’s “Jilted River”, and a meticulous balance of fatal magic awaits in Timothy Vincent’s “Awareness”. Readers whose tastes lean in a more Sci-Fi direction may find particular enjoyment in Thaxson Patterson II’s out-of-this-world creations in “Life Under Research Conditions”, or young Kip’s larger-than-life summer adventure in J.R. Potter’s “Tower Gods”.

If I had to choose a favorite story from the collection (excluding the title attached to my own name, of course), I think that honor would go to “The Year of No Foals” by Scott E. Tarbet, a homey, futuristic yarn that reads like it could have happened yesterday or a generation ago. The blend of ordinary and extraordinary is magic and left me smiling. And I strongly advise that all comers stick around for the book’s world-hopping, mind-bending, heart-pounding adventure of a finale, “60 Seconds to Midnight” … though maybe not right before bedtime, lest TC Phillips’ horrific Daimons hunt you down in your dreams.

HSYRT? (Hey, Should You Read This?): Xchyler Publishing delivers another worthy anthology in “The Toll of Another Bell”. Yeah, you should read it! Preorder the Kindle e-book now, and it will deliver to you just as soon as it launches. January 31st, y’all! – same day as the online Release Party. Be there and play for free stuff! Anyone who had a chance to make it out for the Xchyler release party for “Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions”* knows it’ll be a good time. (:

*Speaking of “Legends and Lore”: Read it? Loved it (or didn’t)? Don’t let Amazon’s customers miss out on your thoughts – share them in a review! All its authors will thank you. ^_^