Author Spotlight – Jodi L. Milner’s Novel Debut with Stonebearer’s Betrayal

I met Jodi L. Milner years ago at who even remembers, but we’ve been thick as thieves ever since. We both have an individual inclination for mischief, so getting us together sometimes becomes a cavalcade of catastrophes, much like watching devious monkeys escape from the zoo.

Us, in the funnest treehouse last weekend at a writers retreat.

I first was introduced to Jodi’s writing in a fantasy anthology THE TOLL OF ANOTHER BELL, published by my publisher. I guess, in a way, that was my introduction to her. She found me a Comic Con and we were quick friends. Jodi went to write several more short stories in other anthologies. Shorts are a great way to get your feet wet in the industry, giving an author some publishing credits for their querying resume. (Being honest, my literary voice is a bit too epic for short stories. I’ve only written a few. There is nothing wrong with starting this way, it’s just not how I started.) I worried Jodi would box herself in to shorts only, though I knew there was a novel in her. She’d been talking about it forever. I was thrilled to hear when she signed with Immortal Works and started the novelist’s journey in publication.

Jodi has been a joy to know and I celebrate with her as her first novel is set for worldwide release November 13th, 2018. Stonebearer’s Betrayal is an epic fantasy geared to young adults or young at heart, 13 years and up.

Order here on Amazon

A secret society of immortals, tasked to protect the world.
A demon bent on revenge.
A girl brave enough to fight for her family when the two collide.

Archdemoness Wrothe stirs the ashes from a long dead war, rekindling a fire that threatens to burn the world. Only the legendary Stonebearers of the Khandashii have the power to stop her, if they catch wind of her plans in time. Katira didn’t believe the legends. She didn’t believe a person could alter the fabric of reality or live forever. She didn’t believe in the dark mirror realm or in the dangerous creatures prowling there either.

That was before the first shadow hound came for her.

I’d like you to get to know a little about my friend Jodi and her work. I asked Jodi a few simple questions.

When did you first consider being an author?

While I always dabbled in writing, I didn’t allow myself to dream of being an author until I hit the magical age of 30 and did a fierce reality check with my dreams and ambitions. I realized that if I wanted to do anything with my life, it was up to me to make it happen. I stopped waiting for the ideal time to start writing, sat down, and tried to write the book lurking in the back of my head. 

Who inspires you?

It would be so easy to rattle off the names of super famous authors, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m most inspired by women authors who manage to raise their families, look put together, hold down a day job, and still find time to write their amazing books. If they can do it, so can I. Every one of the wonderful women in my writing tribe have given me the courage to reach for my own dreams. (“That made me a bit misty, Jodi.”)

How did you get your inspiration for Stonebearer’s Betrayal?

I wish the story came from an amazing dream that insisted on being written. It would have been so much easier! Stonebearer’s Betrayal started with a series of scenes I found compelling and slowly grew into a story. Somehow all my favorite ideas and character traits from TV shows and books crept in there, so the book is in part wish fulfillment for a story I would have loved to read as a teenager. 

What makes you truly happy?

The best thing ever is sharing something that is dear to me and watching their eyes light up with excitement. In that moment it’s like two realities collide and become one.

You can find Jodi on all the medias, but her website is a good place to meet her and get to know her work.
Follow Jodi on Amazon

Here is a Sneak Peak at Stonebearer’s Betrayal:

Only sixteen days remained before Katira’s coming of age ceremony, and she prayed for more time. She’d spent eighteen years of her childhood without giving the passing moments a single thought, and those moments were running out.

Katira shifted aside her well-worn quilt an inch at a time, trying not to make a sound as she readied herself to sneak out of bed. Elan promised to meet her outside the gate when the moon passed behind the highest peak across the valley.

The bed frame creaked as she sat up. She held her breath, not daring to move or lie back down. On the other side of the small room, the heavy slumber-laden breathing of Mamar and Papan continued unchanged.

Over the years, Elan had begged her to sneak out dozens of times. Each time he asked, Papan’s warnings of dangers in the woods echoed through her head. Papan spoke of things out there that wanted to hurt her. Going with Elan not only went against her father’s rules, it scared her.

Back then, there was always the promise of another chance.

Not anymore. Elan insisted that it would be unseemly for her to participate in that year’s coming of age ceremony without ever having set foot in the woods. She needed to have this small adventure to proclaim her entry into adulthood. It was expected. All the other youths did it. Even clumsy Gonal, her father’s smithy apprentice, had been rabbit hunting with his older brothers. Or so he said.

Then again, the other youth didn’t have Papan as their father. They wouldn’t be forced to carry water until their hands bled as a lesson in responsibility.

She pushed the rest of the blanket aside. Nothing could make her change her mind. Not now. Today marked her eighteenth birthday. She was an adult. If she wanted to leave the house and go to the woods, she could do so without permission. She would have to face her fears and there was no one better to do it with than Elan.

StoneBearer’s Betrayal is available for Pre-Order on Amazon, or get a signed Copy from Jodi’s Website.

Book Review – A Darker Shade of Magic (Shade of Magic Series)

I didn’t feel right to review just one book, when I was reading the series. I finished A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC last year, but had editing commitments that prevented me from diving in and finishing the series until now. Now that I have finished, I will still be focusing on the first, with the reach of the other two in the series.

I met V. E. (Victoria) Schwab last year at Salt Lake Comic Con 2017, back when it was called that. I get more excite about authors I admire than big-time celebrities. I actually dressed up as her character Delilah Bard – tweeted at her with a picture – she hearted it, it was fun.

She remembered my costume. She was waiting to meet me and found out I was an author too. We talked for a bit, and of course I gave her my card. She’s with TOR! It was REALLY a fun moment.

Cool. Calm. Collected.
Super goofy grin.

I got the chance to see her again on her tour a few weeks ago. Out of all the cities, she decided to stop at quaint, little Salt Lake. And she again, totally remembered me, even after a year of meeting countless other Bards. I wasn’t even wearing the mask. I was so impressed by the sincerity and funny candidness. It felt truly special to have a level like that with someone I admire so much.


It’s very hard for me to put this reading experience into words. One of the things I look for in books I read is “Mind-blowing creativity,” something I admire in style and envy as a writer. I state this a lot because I hunger for it, and when something surpises me or takes me off my guard, I can’t help but smile. Ms. Schwab has done that very thing in A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.  I stepped into reading this book without any prior knowledge of the books. I followed Ms. Schwab on twitter and I liked her online persona. I looked into her books and I FREAKING LOVED the covers and how graphically intriguing, and yet, how simplistic they were. And when I started reading it, I knew within moments, that this book did things right.

A first page is critical in setting up EVERYTHING. I learned that at my very first writers event I went to, where praised authors Shannon Hale and Dan Wells gave feedback on my first page before I even became a published author. THat experience changed a lot of the way I view first pages and writing style, I personal imprinted it on my writer soul. So, when I looked at this first page, I picked up very quickly that this was something new.

It starts with a very simple line, “Kell wore a very peculiar coat.” That’s the first line, a line that told me so much about the story without telling me anything. It turns out this coat as different identities, depending on where it was and what Kell needed it to be. This coat had its own character and story before I even knew anything about the plot. I was very intrigued. I immediately was thrown into a rich world, not of fantasy, but one with dimensions – ALL London.

RED LONDON – Rich and vivid, smelling of roses and deep with magic.

WHITE LONDON – Cold and colorless, where the magic has nearly vanished from the world.

GREY LONDON – OUR London, or the one from King George VI, industrial grey-sooted London.

BLACK LONDON – We do not speak of it, it’s that bad.

The idea of dimensions added with magic, blow me away. Antari can travel through different Londons as long as they carry something from the world, and as willing to use their own magical blood to create a portal. And what happens when a clever Londoner thief, Delilah Bard, picks Kell’s pocket from his magnificent coat? The beginning of a great adventure.

The series as a whole was unpredictable and clever. It continually surprised me. It’s not like anything I’ve read before, and that was so refreshing. Each character is well-developed and has their own purpose and drive. Ms. Schwab writes gender-fluid characters, both hard and soft, light and dark in their own way, and stays true to their flaws. I found myself not rooting for just one character, but more rooting for the magic to win. In A CONJURING OF LIGHT, Kell says Delilah Bard is “…one of a kind,” which is so true. She is fearless, determined, daring, and lethal. Kell’s character is sacrificial and honorable, everything Bard wasn’t. It was a great juxtaposition. The whole cast did a great job, though I gravitated to Kell and Holland.

It was a brilliant idea, told in a brilliant way. And again, it was a story done right.

Schwab set out to tell a complicated story, from several POVs, and delivered a magnificent work of fiction. It’s hard to rate the two books after, because I look at it as a whole piece. Just like any continuing story, the first magical sparks of imagination can’t be duplicated. Fans are the ones coming back to read the stories of these characters. I feel it ended perfectly well, though it was hard to guess who would die (because I thought everyone would). I had a hard time wrapping up the series. I’m excited to go back there with her continuing fiction in this world. I leave the series feeling better than when I started, a better reader and a better writer. I’m so tremendously grateful I found this series and this author, because it changes my view of what fiction can be, and that has a magic all its own.

Well done, Ms. Schwab. Anoshe.

Too Good To Be True – My Encounter With Three Fake Hugh Jackmans

Saturday September 22nd. A lovely new autumn day. On this day I felt pretty invincible. I love autumn. It is my favorite time of year. And I live in a climate where I get all four seasons on the day they promise them. So, I was feeling autumn, getting out my sweaters, wearing my boots, buying mellowcreme pumpkins, and picking apples off my tree. It was a lucky day too, I won two tickets for a concert coming up, and I thought I would Instagram my luck, something that is very fun and very me to do.

I’m a pretty big Instragram-er (check out what I mean here), just things that inspire me, fun things. For someone that needs to promote through media means, it optimizes everything for me. It links to my Facebook Author page and visa versa, plus to Twitter and Tumbler. Also, I call it “Visual Poetry” in the types of posts I make. Instagram has been my favorite of all the medias.

There are dangers in using any type of media, just as using any type of tool, but I’m a smart, capable person and have always used it with care. I do, on occasion (I say on occasion but this is nearly daily), get requests to be friends or to chat from men I do not know, like an easy tinder swipe. I heightened my security on my facebook private page to try and prevent this, but my author page and author profile are open and public. It’s hard to know fans from creeps, so it’s a gamble. I usually decline or delete any request I get from any guy I don’t know. I’m not interested in making friends, just being an author and selling books. They really aren’t my audience, so, the fact that this happened to cautious little me is a big warning to everyone. I feel rather stupid that I didn’t see this one coming.

The Greatest Showman himself, Hugh Jackman, just happened to be in my hometown of Salt Lake City on Saturday as well. The annual doTerra conference was happening downtown and it was swarming with executives and consultants. Not only do I have friends who are a part of this organization, I also witnessed the swarm while at dinner the night previous. They are a professional, yet lively crowd. It was a big affair, and believing it to be their 10th anniversary, they truly were celebrating.

I do not follow many people on Instagram, specifically celebrities, and the only one I do follow is Mr. Hugh Jackman. I started following him while he was getting ready for the Greatest Showman, but I was interested in his philanthropy work in coffee. Reiterated: the ONLY celebrity I follow.

As a follower of Hugh Jackman’s Instagram, I saw that he was, in fact, in my Salt Lake City. He was the special guest at the close of the doTerra conference. I watched a brief video a friend of mine posted, so I knew this to be true. It was beautiful to see the mountains I travel to every day on Mr. Jackman’s feed. I was so grateful he came to my humble city, I commented just thanking him for coming to my town.

I was “Comment around 816.” I didn’t have a thought about this comment. There was no way Mr. Jackman would be reading all these comments. I thought, well, maybe if he sees it, he can feel just for a moment, how much it means for our dinky state to host him, even if only for a few hours.

A little while later I received a message from Instagram telling me that Hugh Jackman commented on my comment.


I went through all the emotions that one would think. I mean, is it possible that he truly liked my comment? I looked at it more closely and still couldn’t believe it. I took a screenshot for prosperity and sent it to a friend proving I’m awesome, and then decided to post it back on Instagram later after my nerves had calmed down. I tagged Mr. Jackman as well, hoping in some way he would like it and look at my profile and eventually buy my books, because that is a perfectly logical conclusion to come to when a high-class movie actor comments to you on his thread.

Something that stuck out to me… why me? I looked back at the thread. He hadn’t hearted or replied to anyone else. The handle was a little different and not his usual handle, but it was so subtle that I didn’t think of it at the time as anyone other than him.

Next day, I had a wonderful morning not doing much of anything besides working on my manuscript and drinking hot cocoa in my jammies. I received a message on my phone that said: thehughjackman_chat_ sent you a message.

I nearly choked. My brain came to a skidding halt. Wait…. what???

I previewed the message and it seemed rather genuine. Thank you for commenting, yadda yadda.

And then I did the boneheaded thing to do, without rationally thinking, I accepted the chat.

My reply was sincere and short, smart and well-written. (I’ve since reported the chat, so it has disappeared from my messages. I have no proof.) I thanked him for being genuine and putting his heart into his work. I mean, it was good. I used my best words, because this is Hugh Jackman, right? Or at least, maybe, his PA. He might read my books! If he even tweeted about one book, the sales would soar. I’d be set.

And that was it. I shouldn’t expect anything else. I got dressed and went about my autumnal Sunday dreaming if Hugh would endorse my book and how great that would be. How he might like to turn it into a musical. If he was still in town, maybe I could invite him over for dinner, just the regular type daydreaming.

I received a reply.

So, this was where things start to become a little fishy. The grammar was sloppy, which bugs me even in messages, and I expect a lot more from a real-classy educated actor. I’m positive bad grammar would bug him too. This Hugh asked about what I did and if I was a fan of his work. I figured since he is messaging me, he would know I am. And asked what was my favorite of his movies, quote “most people say the wolverine.”

So, wait… “the wolverine?” First thing, what movie is he referring to? Are you meaning “Wolverine” that came AFTER the first three X-Men movies, which as fun as it seemed, no one would say is their favorite Hugh Jackman show, not when you compare it with any of the X-Men shows. And if you were to pick an X-Men, it has to be X-Men: 2. Everyone knows that. But the other thing was -author instruction insert- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you are picking thirtysomething females to talk to, you better do your homework Fake Hugh Jackmans, because everyone on this planet knows that this demographic will pick The Greatest Showman.

This was when I decided to test the ground a little, but also I made some mistakes.

Still on a high, I told him I was an author, because I need to plug the author thing, and that everything he wished to know about me was on my website. I thought that was a safe answer, since that is author me, sorry everyone. But I’m directing Mr. Jackman to my website, so there he can buy my books. See where the fantasy took me?

I then threw out some pretty obscure movies like the PBS version of Oklahoma and The Fountain. Fake Hugh glazed over it by saying how wonderful it was to have a fan like me, and that I looked like a person with a kind heart, and how nice it felt to talk to a fan and be free to speak to true fans. Wordy, jumbled BS.

Kind heart, huh? Where did he get that from? And then, that’s when he started to talk about secrets. That he liked to keep secrets, using the fancy word of “clandestine”, and that I needed to keep our conversation totally and completely secret, even from my best friend, (which – too late, I had messaged earlier, so he already knew), because “us celebrities” can’t have the media involved. My creep vibe shot through the roof. I knew I had been had.

I messaged him “And this is where things become too good to be true” and started for the exit.

He messaged back rather quickly, pleading me to trust him.

Uhhhh. . . No.

I was pretty firm in my response back, that not without a timestamp selfie would I believe that this was the REAL Hugh Jackman. I told him, provide that and I’ll keep talking, if not, I politely asked (and yes, I was polite) to buy my books.

He did message back saying that he couldn’t provide all his fans with a selfie. Ha! I again politely reported it to Instagram.

I felt like the stupidest person in the world. I had fallen for this simple, yet ingenious scam. I have always looked at myself as a very savvy media person, with the right protections and securities in place, so here I am feeling exposed, raw, naked, and frankly, plain old stupid. I should have seen this before it became a thing. There were so many red flags, and I even picked up on them. I should have picked up on it way sooner.

It’s in my nature to genuinely believe that people are good. That makes me a very trusting person, even when I shouldn’t be. I felt very used because of my gullible nature and sometimes unrestrained generosity, even though this person didn’t really know that about me, they could read it in my language and words that I was a sucker with a bleeding heart. I don’t think this Fake Hugh Jackman was after money though, I mean, what lonely girl wouldn’t want sexy talk with a famous movie star? Well, probably a lot, but this Hugh approached the wrong girl – a writer with a bruise on her pride and some mighty keystrokes.

Not five minutes later, after I had reported the Fake Hugh Jackman, did I get another message from a different Hugh Jackman saying he wanted to talk and thank me for my nice comments. I died laughing, my ego healing a bit. It lightened my dreary mood – like Daffy Duck running in after Bugs had already delivered the punchline. Three! I had been ‘catfished’ by THREE different Fake Hugh Jackmans. Well, I must be the luckiest person in the world.

The REAL Hugh Jackman made a statement back in March about impersonators on his media accounts. (cited: I didn’t find this until after, of course, but the danger is very real and very out there.

Several actors and celebrities have made similar statements stating to be aware of fake accounts – don’t give out any personal information, money, etc. I think we can all tell the Bright Blue Badge on their profiles, but it’s not always present in messages. With the explosion of texting communication in all the different medias as a way of socializing, scam artists are becoming very slick about what they are doing. And darn it, I’m raising kids in this generation of media-level friendships. My advice, don’t accept any request from people you don’t know. And be so careful with who you are on media. Pictures are deceiving, and people are more bold in texts, so never say anything in words that you couldn’t say to their face. Even I know the art of taking a good selfie, but that’s not how I really am. I have to keep the real me for my family and the real friends who know my heart. That doesn’t make the author me not genuine or honest or funny, just not for everyone. I’m sure, the REAL Hugh Jackman feels the same way.

I’m embarrassed about what I did and how thoughtless I was at the simple invitation of talking, but I wanted to share with you my experience so all of you can be wary, be warned about the dangers of fake celebrities and just messaging in general to strangers.

When things sound too good to be true, they usually are.

Disclaimer: I am not a selling or advocate of doTerra. They are listed for story form only.

Let’s Be Authors! – Making It at FanX 2018

My panel: The Rise and Fall of Sega. Had a good crowd and a great discussion.

I had a discussion years ago, actually on a road trip to Portland with my author gal pals, about when someone “Makes It” in this business of writing. What is the threshold? I mean, I’m sure that once you need a personal assistant or a publicist to do things for you, you have definitely “Made It” in some way or another. Just having enough to pay your car payment each month is a huge accomplishment. It’s a hard classification, because my internal view of being an author is not what is reflected in the external view to the reader.

So the idea of “Making It” is difficult. And as I really thought about it, it’s only important to one person. . . That’s me.

In all these years of being an author, I’ve never really felt that I “Made It.” I’ve taught classes and been on panels at different writing conferences, with really, really cool people too, by the way. But I didn’t feel successful, I kinda felt like I was a cool kid, but not a success. My audience is not my peers, so writing conferences are not the best place to sell books or engage with your audience. Online sales are difficult to judge, because I have no engagement what so ever. It’s all just numbers, not people. My books are very buried in the doldrums of Amazon, and only with promotion do my books get any attention.

Booth set up, Christine and Conor being cool.

But when I really feel like an author and really feel an impact of what I’m doing, is when I physically get to place a book in someone’s hands. I’m handing them an adventure, my adventure that I’ve created for them. And when I get to personalize it? It’s the best! Because I am offering a part of me in this book, a special message just for them. It’s a special feeling.

The Green Room offers the best view of dinosaurs.

FanX 2018 offers a great way to find your fan base and connect with readers one on one. It was a different experience this year than our other times at the Con Formally Known As Salt Lake Comic Con. In previous years, I had filled the booth with other authors – last year, we had NINE authors. My ideas were to give other people a chance to shine, and make back the cost of the booth, without thinking that I would profit anything. This made for a very crowded and stressful environment.

Me, with my boothmates, Ben and Christine.

This year, I decided to do things differently. I didn’t want to be stressed. I wanted to enjoy being at this con. It should be fun. So, I scaled it way down to working with only my closest and best friends in my writing circle: authors Christine Haggerty and Ben Ireland. Each of us write for a different audience, so no competition in sales, and also, we genuinely really want each other to succeed, so selling each other’s books was easy. It’s all about the reader. That is so important, the MOST important thing we did in the booth.

“Waiting for all my rabid fans to arrive.” – Christine

We got lucky booth 1203, a corner very close to the opening doors and main staircase. We set Christine and I on opposite sides of the corner and gave Ben the front corner spot (picture above), so every book had its own place to shine. We all had something new for our booth: Christine’s Middle Grade – Lucas and the House of Lies, Ben’s third in the Blacksmith Legacy – Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul, and my new poetry book – Wandering Beautiful.

“Uhura, from an alternate timeline, signing a Wandering Beautiful.” – Candace

Historically, we never sold very well on the first day. Most people were waiting to buy everything on the third day. I don’t know if it was the phase of the moon or something, but once those doors opened, people found us immediately and we started selling.

“FanX was an absolutely wonderful experience. Sharing with fans who really get a show generates an energy you can’t find anywhere else. And meeting Anna Graves was an incredible bonus. She struck me as a genuine fan, and she was wonderfully gracious.” – Ben (Photo by CB Lee)

Hands down, this was the BEST year at FanX. The crowd was amazing, we had exceptional stars (I witnessed Jason Momoa, he is real, we breathe the same air, and rotate around the same sun. . . ), but the panels were amazing. Both Ben and I got to participate on panels. My retrogaming panel went amazingly, but not as fabulously as Ben’s Voltron panel. And Christine cosplayed as her pocket pin-ups and drew quite the crowd, plus a free red top hat.

“Cute little Paige was the 60th Harley Quinn I counted at FanX and she got a free copy of Lucas and the House of Lies.” – Christine

We had fun. We were everywhere. But the best part was talking with fans, fellow creators, fellow readers, who were interested in getting to know us and know what our books were about. We were an impressive force. Many people asked about who we were, how we became a group in a booth, and other authors were anxious for a spot with us next year. I sold out of two titles as well, Ben sold out of his first title. We were not expecting to sell so much. I under-prepared for the crowd, because it’s hard to haul unsold books back. It’s discouraging. I have one, small box of books now sitting in my empty garage instead of several. I’m just still stunned and impressed.

Goofing off with Julie, who helped us Friday and Saturday.

I’ve had a few days to let things settle, but my glow has not faded. As I was driving in on Day 3 of FanX, it was a little cloudy, but the sun was peeking through little breaks, making gorgeous little spots of sun. I thought those lucky people may not even know they are in this spotlight right now.

Check out this guy, he bought Ben’s series and I totally stole a picture of it.

“Making it as an author is much like being in that spot of sun, not until it has passed can you see and recognize how truly beautiful it is.”

I felt the admiration from each person who purchased my books, and those buying my friends’ books. We all felt the energy, which brought us closer as a group. We were making a difference in their lives, even for a fraction of a moment, but it is imprinted on me forever.

“Me and the new Doctor. It was a great year.” – Candace

I feel invincible and ready for any challenge. I’m feeling creative and set to finish my book. To all my new friends that I met at this conference, thank you from ALL OF US! FanX has made me the author I had always felt I could be and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot of sun.

An Editor’s Note: My Thoughts on Ironsoul

Act I of the Blacksmith Legacy

Ironsoul IS coming! In fact, it’s almost here. Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul will be release Sept. 1st and I’m super excited. Pre-order here!

A few years ago, I had a gentle conversation with a fellow author about a boy with demonblood. This character’s name is Billy Blacksmith and his author is Ben Ireland. Many people know this. I have previously blogged about this incredible experience here. It’s a unique and creative story of an unlikely hero battling enormous, demonic spiders with a baseball bat, not to mention it is so fun to read, with Ben’s witty writing and intense action.


In BILLY BLACKSMITH: THE DEMONSLAYER, the reader is introduced to Billy – this funny, overweight orphan, who finds he’s incredibly skilled at wielding a baseball bat, which comes in handy when gigantic demonic spiders want to drink his blood. As the editor, I struggled when to interfere, coming from an author background. This was my first novel as an editor. I had to let his voice become the star and I had to completely disappear.  It was a learning curve for both of us working together, and even then, sometimes I had to just trust Ben as the author, that things he hadn’t explained would resolve. Everything was leading to a much bigger story.

BILLY BLACKSMITH: THE HELLFORGED, the second in the series, was much more fun for me to edit. No more need for introduction, Ben speeds Billy on a quest to find a magical weapon. I liked the adventure of this one. I was used to Ben’s writing style and I completely trusted him, which made things easier for me. I could tell he enjoyed writing it, because of how joyful it read. And the reader gets a chance to see more of the Demonic Realm, including a Thunderdome-like fight scene, with giant, demonic pugs and hummers with machine guns attached to the top. How visually entertaining! Not to mention, the connections between his friends deepen – he’s forming a team! Pure adventure, and I just loved it.

Billy started out really fun, took me on a true adventure, I got to imagine giant pugs and demonhound puppies… The creativity of it was mind-blowing. I couldn’t guess or even imagine what Ben had in store next.

“As humans, we carry scars, everyone has them, everyone needs them.”


I can’t believe this manuscript landed in my hands. It came to me on Christmas day, way after presents were opened. It was the winding down of the evening when I turned on my computer and saw the heading “The Ironsoul” blinking at me with a tag saying “Merry Christmas.” It was magical. I knew he was close to finishing, but I wasn’t expecting it. I read just a little bit, like when you skim the pages of new books, finding out that it was right after Christmas when this novel takes place. It was a winterscape, which I love, with Billy downtown seeing the lights of Salt Lake City, my city. It was lovely and I soaked it in.


When I do a first pass, I read the manuscript like a reader would. However, I like to annotate. I annotate any book I really love, because there are details and feelings I want to remember and highlight. I really focus on what I like, what’s good, what works, and what I want to remember, my feeling at the time. If it’s something that needs work, I might make a quick note, but nothing serious. That’s not what I’m focusing on during this pass. Mostly, it’s likes.

Second pass is the nitty-gritty, where I really dig into “Does this make sense?” “Is this working?” “I think it needs more” etc… and the continuity of the story, now that I know it from start to finish. With Ben, because our writing is so different, I ask a lot of questions and stay out of his writing as much as possible. He was a very fun, unique style that’s as identifiable as a fingerprint, so commenting let’s me focus on what needs to be addressed without interfering and lets him fill in a lot of the details. It needs to be authentic. This is my cinematographer angle, with a slow pan through the scene to see the right way to tell it. Ben will tell you that I ask for more action A LOT. It’s not a bad thing, but he writes in conversations, so painting more of the picture through words is a great way to keep your audience involved.  I’ll say, he always surprises me with his originality, and honestly, that’s why I ask, because I know it gets him pushing himself to be creative. So many times it surprises me what he comes up with.

Third pass is smoothing, and third pass is loose in translation, since it could be multiple passes over sections. The grammar, the punctuation, and the fixes. Nothing too excited here. We are getting this manuscript “reader ready” and it’s not the fun part, polishing never is.


So, Ironsoul immediately entertained me with charming dialogue and witty situations. Chapter 3 – the first chapter with Billy, kicks the novel into high gear with a pretty intense fight scene. And then Chapter 4 made me blush all sorts of colors. But by Chapter 5, the novel takes another turn, a big one. Chapter 6, I found myself engrossed in words and situations and feelings I hadn’t felt in a long time. Feelings?! Ugh! Where did those come from? Feelings of being young and awkward, not pretty, not popular, being picked on and teased, trying so hard to fit in, walking around in a skin that didn’t fit me right. Those feelings!

“Freewill unchecked is chaos. Mr. Fingers will prove that to you before the week has ended.” Seth, Billy Blacksmith: The Ironsoul


Unlike the adventure of Hellforged, Ironsoul is a mystery. I kept trying to guess things. I’m not really a guesser, I don’t like spoilers, so my guesses were more hunches. The clever demon, Mr. Fingers, feeds on emotions and manipulates others to feel soul-collapsing depression and failure. All are susceptible, except those who possess an Ironsoul, or someone so strong in their convictions that they can’t be persuaded. When I got to the title chapter, which I think a lot of us look forward to, I was blown away, once again, by the depth the story was taking.

Actual Editor Annotations Throughout My First Pass:

“WHAT? What an incredible idea!”

“I like this. The whole thing. I think your concept of the Ironsoul is a beautiful aspiring trait that will be good for teens, or heck, anyone.”

“Why am I feeling this book so much?”

“AH! I love this. This is so relate-able. I mean, hasn’t everyone done this?”

“I love that you put this in. This elevates the bond for the reader. And it’s so tender. The book presses on the tender emotions we have. The crowd will really like this.”

I couldn’t believe I was handed this incredible book. Overall, I found the story inspiring, thought-provoking, and downright wonderful. It did not have the action-packed hummer-giant pug chase from Hellforged, or the creepifying gym full of spiders from Demonslayer, but instead of action, it is filled with suspense, curiosity, and a range of emotional checks and balances. Ben’s background in horror writing really shows up here, filling in the cracks with spookifying intensity. It was thrilling.

And every Billy book has folklore, and this doesn’t disappoint. The depth of the backstory, that basically frames the entire series, is magnifying and I gush every time I get to the folklore, because you are getting not only one story here, but THREE – all the folklore that’s laced in with Billy’s story, plus you get to see what the princess Patricia and the ex-General of the Spider Horde Krios are up to.

What I found most surprising is the nature of this novel, tackling very deep subjects, like bullying and depression. I’ve never read anything like it in a fantasy novel. I’m still dumbstruck. It’s so powerful.


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I’m more proud than I can say. This novel was not easy for Ben to write. As authors, sometimes dive deep within ourselves to capture emotion that is true and raw in order to tell the right story. I couldn’t say Ben did this personally, not knowing much of his backstory, but the overarching theme carries a heavy understanding to the reader, a personal touch that tells them, “I know what you’re feeling. I get it. And you’re gonna be okay.” As humans, we carry scars, everyone has them, everyone needs them.

This was a difficult edit, but worth all the sweat and tears. I paced myself differently, because there needed to be a nice balance of fun without losing the integral story. I’ve found that Ben is very good about balancing intensity with witty banter. His writing is fresh, clever, and cinematic.

“Ironsoul is more than an entertaining YA novel. It’s about bad influences and bullying, spite and retaliation, loneliness and isolation, unconditional loyalty and friendship, and most of all – choosing to do the right thing, even when you think it’s impossible!” Sue, Amazon Reviewer


Ironsoul falls third in line in the Blacksmith Legacy, and with being a continuous story, it may see hard times before it gets to the readers it was intended for. That breaks me up a little, since I love this book so much. I wish you could just dive into it, but there is so much story, one just can’t do that. However, it didn’t take me long to know Billy was something special and something I wanted to be a part of, and it won’t take readers long either. You get hooked on Billy and it’s WORTH it! Every word.

Here is a FREE sneak peek of Chapter 5: Clatterball (demon sports are very amusing) on Ben’s website:

Also, if you are an artist or love fan art, check out the FAN ART COMPETITION happening now of FANDOM’s Billy page here.

This series has been part of me for the last two years. I will miss editing, but I’m ready to get writing again. This is only Billy’s ACT I (first three) of his epic saga. There are so many stories to tell and I want to read them all. #teamgreyson

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