New Release: Stonebearer’s Redemption

[Originally posted at December 7th, 2022]

After a year of extra waiting, the third and final book in the Shadow Barrier Trilogy is finally here! Stonebearer’s Redemption picks up Katira’s story a few months after the events of Stonebearer’s Apprentice where Wrothe found a way to attack the stronghold of Amul Dun directly, the first enemy to do so in the castle’s long history.

What’s this one about?

We start the story with Katira being content with her new life living at Amul Dun as she learns more about the power she holds. This peace is disrupted when she discovers that Namragan is under attack by shadow hounds. Both she and Papan feel compelled to return and ensure the safety of the place they once called home.

In doing so, Katira encounters a new problem that has everything to do with who she is and her destiny. If she can solve it, it will right a wrong committed hundreds of years before she was ever born.

Stonebearer’s Redemption is a fact-paced story full of drama, danger, and all the feels you’ve come to expect from me.

Why the delay in publishing?

Books that end a series present their own unique challenges, and this one is no different. It was a massive learning experience for me to gather up all the different story threads and combine them together to create a fulfilling conclusion that lived up to expectations.

Considering all that – I was bound to make a few mistakes.

I truly believed the book to be brilliant and complete back in August 2021 when I turned it into my editor for the first time. It was then that she very kindly pointed out a story problem so large that she may or may not have had the urge to throw the book across the room.

It seems that in my misguided attempt to elicit sympathy for our favorite villain, Wrothe, I made some choices that didn’t make sense in light of just how nasty a character she was in the first two books. Turns out that you can’t give a bad guy a happy ending, no matter how compelling you think it might be.

But, as I said before, writing this series has been a learning experience. I had a chance to make things right and by golly, I was going to take it. The last thing I would ever want is for a reader to be invested in Katira’s story enough to read the whole series, only to be disappointed in the end.

Up to this point, I’d been working on this book several hours a day for months on end. I needed a break. So – I wrote a cute little novelette that had been itching the back of my brain since I’d finished book #1 all about the events surrounding when Katira came into Jarand and Mirelle’s lives as a baby.

Only a writer would distract themselves from one big book problem by writing another book. So, yeah … Ta Dah!

Psst! You can totally get a free copy of “Of Stone and Spark” as a thank you for joining my mailing list.

Once “Of Stone and Spark” was done, I dove back into editing and pulled out those less-than-great ideas like the weeds they were. In the process, I found all sorts of new exciting ideas waiting for me. Stonebearer’s Redemption is a million percent better for the effort and I’m glad I took the time to essentially rewrite the entire thing.

What’s next?

As this is my first completed series, I’m taking a few weeks to truly celebrate this moment. This is the largest and longest-running project I’ve ever finished and it deserves time to shine. It won’t be long until I’m itching with a new idea, or character, or world that demands to be written.

As my gift to you, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, the first book in the Shadow Barrier Trilogy, is discounted to $0.99 for the entire month of December 2022. If you haven’t started, here’s your chance!

Grab my copy today!

Happy reading!

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Stonebearer’s Betrayal Release Day!

It’s been a long journey, and many of you have been with me from the beginning. My young adult fantasy was released on all major online book retailers today!

Be sure to click the link to read the full article posted on my other page –

via Stonebearer’s Betrayal Release Day!

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Cover Reveal – Stonebearer’s Betrayal

So excited to share this with you, my friends, who have been there with me from the beginning!

Jodi L. Milner, Author

Each phase of the publishing process brings with it a mix of excitement and carefully controlled terror. Excitement springs from completing another step and coming that much closer to bringing your book baby into the world. Terror lurks around each turn, because there is always the possibility of something going wrong.

Whoever compared creating a book to having a baby is absolutely right. Each month of a healthy pregnancy is cheered, each milestone celebrated, but disaster is unpredictable and always a heartbeat away. Until the baby is born, all mothers understand the fear of something going wrong as they carry their child. I know I did with all three of my pregnancies. I’m doing the same now with my book.

But, you can’t allow fear to stop you. In fact, if you aren’t doing something that scares you from time to time, then you aren’t stretching to meet your potential.

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Pt. 3 Creating a B Story and Hitting a Meaningful Climax

This is the third part of the “Finding Balance in Storytelling” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

Here are handy links to the other parts –

In the first two parts of this presentation we discussed what makes an audience zone out and a few handy tricks to keep this from happening. In today’s post we will elaborate more on how to balance out action scenes with rest scenes where we learn more about story and characters.

paper-3061485_1280Creating a “B” story *Ragnarok spoilers ahead*

Often people will talk about the story within the story. In Thor: Ragnarok, the main conflict is for Thor to defeat Hela. The “B” story is Thor’s internal struggle with the death of his father, Odin, and his acceptance of the role of king of Asgard. (If that was a spoiler to you, sorry. Tell all your friends how awful I am. I need the publicity. Plus, it’s on Netflix so what’s your excuse?)

The “B” story is developed during the sequels. Again, this is where scene/sequel terminology drives me a bit mad. (If you missed the scene and sequel discussion, jump back to part 2) Sequels in this care are scenes that happen between the exciting bits.

This is when we see the main character’s internal struggle with a problem that once solved will ultimately be what turns the tide in solving the main conflict. For example, Hela couldn’t be defeated until Thor understood what being the God of Thunder meant.  He didn’t come to understand his title until he accepted his father’s death and his destiny to rule Asgard. There are a bunch of layers in there, and if you study it closely there’s a thread running through the whole movie of Thor learning about his power and how to be a leader.

For many stories, the “B” story is also where the relationship between the main character and the person they are interested in grows into something else. They gradually fall in love, or they start detesting each other, or they learn a new respect for each other. The development of these relationships tends to happen when the world isn’t actively coming to an end, literally or metaphorically. In Thor, Thor and Loki have a troubled past. Through the course of Ragnarok we see a growing respect between them leading to a healthy sibling relationship.

spread-2904672_1280Hitting a Meaningful Climax

The peak of a great story happens in the climax. If all the elements of the story have been well crafted together then we can engineer what I’d like to call a perfect storm. This happens when all the different elements come together to create something larger than the sum of the parts. In stories, this is a combination of a character with redeeming qualities, a conflict that the audience can relate to, and carefully controlled tension.

There are hundreds of resources on how to make a great character. Here on My Literary Quest there are hoards of posts that cover different aspects character development that you are welcome to check out. Same goes with creating a relatable conflict. In this series of posts we dived in-depth on how to control the tension by varying the emotional intensity, using the scene/sequel mindset, and slowly escalating what’s at stake for the character.

At the climax, the main character solves the big problem, usually in an epic and exciting way that makes sense for the story. In Ragnarok, Thor finally defeats Hela and accepts being the leader to the homeless Asgardians. Is it meaningful? Yes. Without fighting and defeating Hela, Asgard the place and its people would have been destroyed. Thor would not be able to fulfill his glorious destiny or develop respect for Loki. Is it relatable? Thor struggled to be a leader and had to figure out how to handle Hulk and lean on other outside help in order to succeed. Was there dramatic tension? Heck yeah. Odin dies leaving a gaping hole that needs to be filled. Loki was supposed to be dead and he returns. Hela, Thor’s sister, shows up and is far more powerful than he is. She breaks his hammer, stealing away the one thing he believed made him special.

When all of this is resolved, it makes for one exciting ride.


Thor approves of this post.


I hope you enjoyed this presentation series. Want to learn more? There are several other presentation notes available! Also be sure to like and subscribe on the social media of your choice so you don’t miss a thing. Head on over to my author page on Facebook or follow on Twitter @JodiLMilner.

I also am on Instagram at @jodi.l.milner

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Pt. 2 Scene and Sequel

This is the second part of the “Finding Balance in Storytelling” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

Here’s a handy link to part one –

In the previous part we explained using brain science why too much action can make an audience zone out. The creative hack that can be used to short-circuit this effect comes in two parts. The first is to space out action elements so the audience can recover. The other is to build meaning into the conflict and give the audience a reason to care.

Scene and Sequel

In the writing world there is a term called scene and sequel. The words themselves are a bit misleading to be honest, and led to me not understanding what the concept meant for, let’s just say, way too long. When I hear the word “sequel” my mind wants to think movie sequel. The money grab cheap shot that makes studio executives wet themselves kind of sequel.

In a nutshell, the term “scene and sequel” refers to the action bit – “the scene” and the chance for the character to react and regroup – “the sequel.” Studio executives don’t get excited about these nearly as much.


To better explain, let’s use a famous movie. If I pretended to adult more, this might be way more exciting. Today we’ll use Moana. The second choice was Frozen, you’re welcome.

Moana Chart.png

This handy graph is a plot diagram. The high points are scenes, the valleys are the sequels. Notice how the story starts out more intense before dropping.  Slowly, one scene at a time, it increases in intensity. This dramatic start in many stories is the murder, or explosion, or chase scene, or fight. After the dramatic or intense start the story calms enough so we have a chance to learn about the main character. This helps the audience care about what happens next.

For the benefit of those of you reading on smaller screens, here are the different graph points.

1 scene Grandma’s story
2 sequel Growing up montage
3 scene Moana tries to leave
4 sequel Grandma shows Moana the boats
5 scene Grandma dies/Moana leaves
6 sequel Moana bored at sea
7 scene Storm!
8 sequel Maui’s Island
9 scene Kakamora
10 sequel Moana convinces Maui to restore heart
11 scene Lalotai and Tamatoa the crab
12 sequel Maui relearns how to shapeshift
13 scene Te Ka part one – Maui’s hook damaged
14 scene Maui abandons Moana
15 sequel Moana wants to give up
16 scene Moana takes on Te Ka
17 scene Maui returns/Heart is restored
18 sequel Ocean is healed/Maui’s hook restored
19 sequel Moana goes home/becomes chief

A scene is where things are happening to the main character. In #7, a storm capsizes the boat and there is not much Moana can do about it. In #8, she arrives at Maui’s Island. It’s the sequel because she is literally asking herself “Now what?” She must make a decision and act on it.

As the story progresses, each problem gets more challenging for Moana to overcome. The stakes are higher, the tension increases, the line on the graph gets taller and taller. As we near the end, scenes start stacking up against each other. It’s okay to have lots of action at the end because the audience now knows what the conflict means to the main character and are cheering them on. There is emotional context that makes the action scenes matter.

The thrilling climax should be the most dramatic, nail-biting, and/or amazing part of the story. In Moana, she takes on the lava monster Te Ka all by herself and nearly gets killed. Maui shows up just in time to help, but ultimately she is the one to save the day. Girl power!

After the climax you have to give your audience a chance to breathe again. The ending sequels are also called the denouement and do exactly that, let the audience breathe. Any loose ends are tied up here, the romance element finds closure, the villain is punished, and the heroes are rewarded.


Stay tuned, part three “Creating a ‘B’ Story and Hitting a Meaningful Climax” is cued up to be released next week! Don’t want to miss it? Be sure to like and subscribe on the social media platform of your choice. You can also follow here on wordpress using the handy buttons, or like my author page on Facebook or follow on Twitter @JodiLMilner.


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Pt. 1 Why is too much action boring?

This is the first part of the “Finding Balance in Storytelling” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

More parts to come!


In today’s action-crazed world filled with people with impressively short attention spans, it’s no surprise blockbuster movies often lean on having lots of explosions and little plot. If you are anything like me, watching a 20 minute chase scene followed by lots of explosions actually gets a little dull. Michael Bay, I’m looking at you.

Why is too much action boring?


brain-2062057_1280It all comes down to how the brain processes stimulus. Deep in the most protected part of the brain, is a part that researchers refer to as the “reptile brain.” This oldest and least evolved part of the brain. Your instincts spring from here, so do your startle responses. The reptile brain’s goal is to keep you alive by alerting you if it thinks something is wrong. Throughout your day this part of the brain interprets stimulation that you see, smell, touch and taste and decides if it’s safe or not. Trouble is, it doesn’t know the difference between what is really happening, and what’s on a page or a screen. Creatives can hack this and make readers have a gut response to things that aren’t happening.

The problem? The reptile brain can get tired if it has to process too much all at once. This is sometimes referred to as over-stimulation, or sensory overload. This is why people start zoning out if there is too much action. Their brains can’t take any more.

Hacking the system using intervals of intensity

Of course there is a way to hack this, and let’s face it, that’s why you are reading this post.

As creatives, we stand in the unique position of being able to control our audience’s experience.  The simple solution to hacking the reptile brain is to place space between moments of gut grabbing context-free action. This allows the brain to recover before making it work again. There is a limit to how effective this is. Brains are smart. If there is a pattern, the reptile brain will not kick in as strongly, if at all.

Enter strategy number two, build meaning into the conflict.

disintegration-1819860_1280Watching a thrilling chase scene is exciting. Knowing what’s at stake if our hero gets caught bumps the scene up a notch to thrilling. When the audience understands the price of failure, let’s say the hero’s family will be assassinated,  it gives them a reason to care. This pushes the visceral response to activate on a deeper more conscious level that is more than just instinct.

The fancy name for this process in the writing world is “scene and sequel” and we will learn heaps more about it in the next post, coming soon!


Enjoying what you read? Don’t want to miss a thing? Make sure to hit that “like” button below and if you are feeling super generous, please subscribe. Not a fan of more emails? I totally understand. You can also follow my author page on Facebook or Twitter @JodiLMilner

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Pt. 3 Using Personal Experience and Applying What You’ve Learned

This is part three of the “Gut Punch your Audience with Emotion” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

Here are handy links to the first two parts:

In the first two parts of this presentation we discussed what components of storytelling are essential to create an “Ugly Cry” movie. Sound good to know? Go back and review if you haven’t read it yet – it’s awesome sauce.

In this part, we will discuss where to get those amazing raw and honest emotions to use when sucker punching your audience with the feels.

Digging Deep and Using Personal Experience


The best source material comes from you the creator. You’ve had experiences that have made you angry, made you cry, perhaps made you act irrational at times. You have regrets, soaring aspirations, and fears. Guess what? So do your characters. A good story will help the audience experience these emotions in safety, a great story will help them learn how to be stronger in the face of adversity.

This is why storytelling is amazing therapy. For example, as you study why your character is getting angry and what it feels like for him to experience rage, you have to break down the sensations for yourself through your own personal lens. This not only teaches you to recognize the first roots of anger in yourself, but it gives you the chance to calm down earlier.

Your characters will be facing their worst fears and learning how to overcome them. For you to be able to put this experience into words, you too must learn to face fears. The deeper you plunge yourself into your character and his motivations, the more likely you will take time to learn about the people around you in real life.

Not only is this a great way to learn greater self-awareness, but it is key to generating empathy for the people around you.



The holy grail of good stories is to make your audience feel deeply about what is happening to your main character. Throughout the course of this presentation we have discussed the key skills you will need to develop to be able to generate your own emotionally driven stories.

Here’s a quick sum up:

  • Build a relatable strong character
  • Give them a meaningful conflict
  • Inject intense emotion when appropriate
  • Use personal experience to guide you
  • Allow audience to recover between intense moments


Now it’s your turn! Pick a scene from a project you are currently working on, or one you’ve been thinking about writing. This should be a scene that has relatively high emotional tension.

decd1137522b6eb556299a946aee22f4First, consider your character and answer these questions, either in your head or written down:

  • What’s the one thing that would hurt your character the most?
  • Why should the audience love this character?
  • What heroic traits does this character possess to help him/her?

Next, identify the primary emotion that your character will be experiencing during this scene. Also consider what intensity of emotion he or she will be experiencing. Here’s a link to the post with the emotion spectrum color wheel, should you need it.

Now, identify an experience in your own life that matches the same emotion you just identified and spend a minute or two remembering those feelings.

You’re ready!

Set a timer for 15 minutes and free write your scene. Remember, free writing means to allow the words to flow without stopping to think or correct anything. Shove your inner editor in a drawer and BE FEARLESS.


I hope you enjoyed this presentation. I’d love to hear your experience with your free write and if you were able to tap into some deep emotion for your character. Tell me all about it in the comments below.

If you haven’t yet read the first two parts of this series, here again are the handy links:


Don’t want to miss a post? Be sure to like and subscribe! I’ll make it easy for you, just hit the button in the right column.

Not a fan of more emails? I totally understand. You can also follow my author page on Facebook or Twitter @JodiLMilner

Be part of the conversation, comment below!



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Pt. 2 Engineering the Perfect Storm and Finding Balance

This is part two of the “Gut Punch your Audience with Emotion” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23rd at Weber State University Davis.

Here’s a handy link to the other parts of the series:


In the first part of this presentation, we talked about the importance of finding emotional resonance with our audience by creating a character they cared about, waiting until the perfect moment to have the worst happen to them, and giving them a relatable problem. These three things, plus intensity, combine into a phenomenon that I’d like to call “The Perfect Storm.”

The Perfect Storm

Clearly, the “ugly cry” movie examples take this formula and pull it to its extremes, and do so successfully. They are masterful examples of what can happen when these elements are expertly used. The intensity in each of these movies keeps audiences engaged and emotionally invested.

We don’t read stories or watch movies to experience what we feel everyday. Annoyance, insecurity, disappointment are all average emotions. What we really want is to experience as a character gets dragged down to the depths and then learn from them as they overcome the conflict. We want to live through their rage, despair, and hysterics from the safety of our armchair and know there is going to be a happy ending, somehow.

If intensity is the key, then we should create a super intense story, right? Okay, challenge accepted.

Opening scene – a car is careening off a cliff, screaming children inside as a father watches from the roadway. He’s hysterical, desperately trying to call for help on his phone. There is the click of a gun being cocked. The father turns to find a mobster pointing a gun in his face. He’s thrown into the back of a car with his hands and feet duct taped. As they pull out, sirens sound. A police chase ensues while the father madly works to escape his bonds. He frees himself and at the ideal moment leaps free of the car. Both the cops and the mobsters slam on their brakes and they all proceed to run Assassin’s Creed style through the industrial district of LA. A building explodes and a giant robot smashes the mobsters and grabs hold of the father, hauling him away to a science facility…

Admit it, you stopped reading halfway through when you realized it wasn’t going anywhere. Man, writing that made me tired. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what some people refer to as:


Don’t get me wrong. There is a market for super action adventure thrillers, just look at any movie directed by Michael Bay. However, if you are seeking something a touch more fulfilling, you will need to master balance.

Finding Balance

Let’s say you’ve created a wonderful character and have given them a compelling conflict – congratulations! Way to go. Your job now is to find balance between high and low emotional moments. As the creative behind the story, you have complete control over when and how you ratchet up or tone down the tension.


Like the lovely lady in this pic, you too might fall on your face a few times before finding the perfect balance for your story. Never fear, I have some tips.

If we are going to regulate emotional tension, we really need to understand the entire spectrum of human emotion, including all its highs and lows.

May I present, drumroll please, the happy rainbow wheel of the emotion spectrum –

Emotion spectrum.jpg

Tah-dah! This wheel has ten rings. The outermost rings show us lower tension and as we travel toward the center we reach more intense emotions. Most people living their daily lives will try really hard not to leave the outer three rings. Traveling inward any further is uncomfortable and even painful. No one likes to be uncomfortable.

This is why the inner rings are a creative person’s playground. Our audience depends on us to be able to experience the full rainbow of human emotion safely.

And here’s how –

Introducing the roller coaster of basic storytelling.


Here we have a plot/tension diagram of Star Wars, A New Hope. Don’t read into those labels too closely, whoever made this lovely graph (attribution will be posted at the end of the series, I promise) is clearly not a hardened nerd. I won’t hold it against them.

If you notice, the story starts with a bang. There is a heavy action sequence with a space battle and Leia’s plea for help. We have no context other than there’s lots of shooting and lots of people are dying. It’s okay to start off with an action scene as long as immediately after there is some character building and conflict building.

And check it out, the next few bumps on the graph are lower tension as we learn about Luke and Old Ben Kenobi and their connection to the rebel alliance. Yay for world and character building.

Something needs to happen to kick our main character out on their quest, and for Luke, it’s the murder of his aunt and uncle (for you writerly nerds, yes, this is the inciting incident).

As you study the graph, you’ll notice that these peaks and valleys continue to grow upwards and upwards until we reach the climax. Each peak is an action scene where the characters must either succeed or fail and each valley is them recouping their efforts and deciding what they should do next. For those in the know, this handy phenomenon is often called scene and sequel, and it’s an excellent topic for another post.

Nearing the climax, the action peaks grow closer together and the reaction valleys get shorter and shorter. Again – you are in complete control of the emotional tension. This is not the time for your character to wander off and get himself an ice cream cone. The reaction bits should still be a bit tense until the thrilling conclusion where your main character brilliantly and bravely saves the day.

After that, especially if you’ve made your audience cry, you need a scene or two to gently lower that tension back down again. In Star Wars, it’s the awards ceremony. This gives the ladies in the audience a chance to wipe off the mascara tracks before the lights in the theater come back on. It also lets you resolve any loose threads you might have left dangling. Trust me, no one likes a dangler.

Stay tuned for part three “Using Personal Experience and Applying What You’ve Learned” coming soon!


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Pt. 1 Visceral Experiences and Creating Award Winning Drama

This is part one of the “Gut Punch your Audience with Emotion” presentation originally given at Fyrecon 2, June 23, 2018 at Weber State University Davis.

Parts two and three are now available:


Simply put, a visceral experience is one that literally “grabs you by the guts.” Adrenaline junkies are hooked to it and seek it out rock climbing, riding roller coasters, and even throwing themselves out of airplanes. A truly visceral experience makes you feel alive, makes your heart pump faster, and makes you sweat. It’s scary and exciting at the same time. This is what your audience is seeking, a memorable experience.

Maya Angelou is famous for saying –

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

As creatives, we have the rare privilege of making our audiences feel this same visceral experience by working to create strong emotional experiences for our characters.

“Ugly Cry” Movies

To better understand why strong emotional experiences are so compelling, let’s study some of my favorite “ugly cry” movies.

The Lion King


There are three elements at play during any super emotional moment. The first is the audience’s relationship with the characters. Mufasa is shown as a kind and caring king, and a wonderful father. He is patient, wise, and speaks in the soothing voice of James Earl Jones. Simba is a playful child who is learning his place in the world with his father’s guidance.

The second element is timing. Had Mufasa been killed in the opening scene, we would never have had the chance to see this wonderful relationship with his son grow.

The third element is how relatable the situation is for the audience. While death is a universal truth for everyone, it’s too abstract on its own to be compelling. Loss of a loved one, on the other hand, is something everyone understands. The Lion King ratchets this up another emotional notch by focusing on Simba’s reaction. He believes that he is responsible for his father’s death and is both terrified and heart-broken. I don’t know about you, but watching children cry gets me in the feels every time.



Titanic scores a double “ugly cry.” The first is when Rose realizes that Jack has died and must let him sink into the depths so that she can be rescued. Jack has proven himself to be a wonderful character. He is full of life and excitement and teaches Rose that she must live her life on her own terms if she is ever going to find happiness. In fact, it is at the peak of Rose finally letting go of her reservations and allowing herself to be happy when the boat hits the iceberg. Talk about timing. The situation strongly resonates with audiences as well because we all crave to find a soul mate who will bring us alive. The worst thing that could ever happen is to lose that person.

I score this a double ugly cry because there is a second beautifully emotional moment right at the end of the film. If you remember, the film started with Rose as an old woman. She was invited to visit Titanic’s last resting place and tell her story.  At end of the movie we see her as an old woman again and are shown pictures from the wonderful life that she lived because of Jack’s influence. She releases the heart of the ocean diamond to the depths of the sea and when we see her next she’s young and beautiful again on the stairs of the Titanic, and Jack is waiting for her.

Crap. Where are my tissues…

Life is Beautiful


This is my all time “ugly cry” champion. Holocaust films already have tragedy sewn right in. Good people are going to have horrible things happen to them and they are going to suffer and die. The main character, Guido, is a goofy, caring, and wonderfully romantic fellow with a knack for making the best of any situation, no matter how much it costs him. When he gets taken to the concentration camp he has one goal, to protect his son. Time and time again we see the risks he takes to keep his son alive and happy.

The war is ending and there is panic in the camp. Guido is frantically trying to keep himself and his son out of sight of the German soldiers. When he knows he’s caught, he sticks his son into a box telling him it’s an exciting game of hide and seek and he’ll win the big prize – a tank – if he can stay quiet and in the box until morning. We see Guido do a silly march to make his son laugh as the soldier pushes him with the tip of his gun. Only when Guido is out of the frame do we finally hear the gunshot.

Please excuse me as I go ugly cry for a bit. Talk amongst yourselves.


And the Oscar goes to…


It’s no surprise that each of these films won hoards of awards. Stories that hit the emotional sweet spot tend to be winners because they made their audiences feel something deeply. Just for fun, here is the list of Oscars these films won:

The Lion King

  • Best music, original Song
  • Best music, original score
  • No “best animated feature” category at this time (or it would have totally got it)


  • Best Picture
  • Best Director
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best art direction – set decoration
  • Best costume design
  • Best sound
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Effects, sound effects editing
  • Best effects, Visual effects
  • Best music original song
  • Best music, original dramatic score

Life is Beautiful

  • Best actor in a leading role
  • Best music, original dramatic score
  • Best foreign language film
  • Nominated for Best picture


Don’t want to miss a post? Be sure to like and subscribe! I’ll make it easy for you, just hit the button in the right column.

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Building a Rock Solid Foundation

This is the second part of the “Overcoming Ego for Better Head Space” presentation  given at Fyrecon 2 at Weber State University Davis.

Find the first part here.


Facing Your Truth

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in being able to recognize where we can improve is the willingness to see reality for what it is and not make any excuses for it. Some call this practice “facing your truth.” Those willing to acknowledge their truth can make needed changes to find greater confidence and happiness.


How do you face your truth? It’s easier than you think. You must be willing to spend time alone with your thoughts and paying attention to the inner dialogue that is running through your head. A tip that there is a problem is if you are mean to yourself and thinking negative things. Some find that guided meditation is helpful to be able to take note of these thoughts in a safe, controlled way.

If you have taken the time to face your truth, there will be parts of yourself that you will not be comfortable with. These demons can only be tamed if they are named and then you find a way to make peace with them.

Some of these uncomfortable thoughts will stem from failure. Know that failure is a part of life. It is better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. If you fear failure, then it will be that much harder to do amazing things.

It goes without saying that through this process of growth and change that you’ve got to be your own best cheerleader. I tell this to my daughter and to people I meet at conferences – if you aren’t going to nice to you, then who will? Your healthy ego is made up of you being okay with yourself, including all the not perfect bits.

In addition to being your best cheerleader, you have to take care of yourself. Again, if you aren’t going to take care of you, who will? A person with a healthy ego draws strength from within because they know who they are.

The Empty Cup Philosophy


Ages ago I heard this story and it’s stuck with me. There once was an advanced karate student who was the top pupil in his class. His teachers still had plenty to teach him but he had become arrogant. He wasn’t interested in what they had to say because he already knew how to punch and kick.

One day his teacher called him over and set a pitcher of water and a glass on the table in front of him. He proceeded to slowly pour water into the glass. Once the glass was full he continued to pour and the water overflowed onto the table.

“Sensei, you’re spilling water everywhere. Why are you doing that?” he asked.

The teacher ignored him and kept pouring and soon water was dribbling over the edge of the table and onto the floor.

The student continued. “Sensei, you’re making a mess. You can’t fill a full cup.”

The teacher fixed his student in his gaze. “Exactly. When you come to class believing your cup is full, I can’t teach you and you will stop progressing. However if you come with your glass empty, you are ready to learn.”


I like this story because it is an excellent reminder that there is always room to grow. Willingness to learn shows humility and honesty with yourself and is a symptom that you have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. There is always room to grow, and lessons can come from anyone regardless of their credentials.

Dealing with Trolls and Haters


Those who find success, will find trolls and haters as well. It’s hard for many people to see their peers succeed when they haven’t. This discomfort can manifest in many ways including jealousy, distancing, and sometimes being plain ol’ nasty to you.

Remember, nothing they say or do can change your truth. You own it. Just because they feel threatened by it doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong. Part of being unflinchingly honest with yourself means you’ve already accepted your weaknesses as a part of who you are.

So, if what they say is true, then you can accept it as constructive feedback and nothing more. If it isn’t true, it’s garbage and you can ignore it. Whatever you do, don’t try to argue with them or make them change their mind. If you refuse to play the game and get all upset then they don’t get what they want, and they go away. Be insufferably nice regardless and the trolls won’t have anything to feed on.

Suggested Exercises

  1. Create an “artist vision statement” that captures why you love creating. Start by listing all the words that you associate with your creative dreams and hopes. From those ideas create a phrase that captures what you hope to accomplish as an artist.

My statement is “Finding Magic Everyday” because life is full of unexpected surprises for those who look carefully. My fiction tends to contain people with magic powers and are working toward a better world.

2. Create a list of strengths and weaknesses about yourself. Its a little scary, and freeing all at once. Be brave! You can do it!

Strengths include:

  • What you are good at
  • What you enjoy doing
  • What people compliment you for

Weaknesses include:

  • What scares you
  • What you avoid doing
  • What you receive criticism for


Character strengths test


Thanks for coming and learning about how to cultivate a healthy ego. I hoped you enjoyed these presentation notes as much as I enjoyed learning about it! Don’t forget, there are other presentation notes handy, feel free to check them out. I’m working to get my complete lecture series listed, so check back often.

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