Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

books

Every year I keep a log of books, short stories, and articles of note that I’ve read. In 2015, I logged an awful lot of books. Some were new releases, but more often than not, not. By this log, though, I figured that I read more how-to books, gardening books, and history books than anything else. I don’t know why it happened this way, but maybe because I’ve been sort of fighting a dark depression and anxiety with hobbies–gardening, sewing, and just about anything I can do which would keep my hands busy. I’m the kind of person who needs to be doing something, even if it’s something small, such as mending a buttonhole or planting a seed. And, once I’m focused, that’s it. I’m addicted to something new and you’ll soon find me in bookshops and online seeking out books regarding my new hobby, whatever it may be. I can’t just be a novice at anything. I will constantly strive to master it.

But, in 2010, for example, I logged mostly romance and horror novels. In 2011 and 2012, same. In 2013, by some strange tap of the reading fairy’s wand, I changed directions and returned to my science fiction and fantasy roots. You see, the firsts books I really loved–and I mean REALLY loved–were sci-fi novels, comics, fantasy tomes, and short stories in magazines involving elves, ghosts, goblins, werewolves, aliens, and vampires. I started reading time travel novels again. I started picking up newer novels by authors I’d forgotten I loved so much in high school. And, I began to change the way I think about things again. I think that’s just something that happens ever so often in life. Your life changes direction, so your reading lists change direction, too.

By 2014, I’d changed completely. I haven’t completely let go of reading romance, but I want to read everything about everything. Sometimes there just isn’t enough space on a year’s worth of bookshelf for all of the books a person would wish to read. I think that might be what happens to me. I am too ambitious. But, there are just so many books!

But, back to 2015.

Last year, my children grew. My fortunes changed (sort of) with the coming of a move which will take me from living in a small 3 bedroom house with a small yard to a small 4 bedroom house with a yard that reaches beyond what the eye can see (my husband’s family’s farm). In anticipation of this move, my family and I have discussed a lot of changes. We’re letting go of cable because it won’t be available. We’re going to have an internet connection to watch Netflix and Hulu and do internety things. But, we’ve also decided that we’re going to raise some chickens and continue growing beautiful herbs and Cherokee purple tomatoes (which are to die for, by the way, and can be found at Burpee’s online). On the farm, my father-in-law and brother-in-laws (and their wives and families) raise chickens, horses, cows, pigs, and sometimes goats. And, I think my niece has some rabbits somewhere. So, with all of this in mind, I’ve been reading about soil, about how to raise animals (because I’m absolutely terrified of horses and have no clue how to manage livestock, much less live with them), and about how to live a simpler life.

Now, hold on, people. Before you start thinking ahead, NO. No, we are not homesteaders. Absolutely, just no. I have mad amounts of respect for homesteaders, but that’s not what we’re doing  at all. We’re just simplifying things and moving forward with raising our family in an area where I won’t have to worry about being so close to other people. Well, except for my husband’s family. Two of his brothers, their wives, their collective six children, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law all live on the same stretch of property, but it’s big enough that none of us have to look at each other if we don’t want to. Or unless I need to be saved from the horses (ha ha).

The beautiful part of how life changes your reading habits, though, is that when I move to my little farm shack in the middle of nowhere, I’ll have new places to read. Also, I have a niece and a sister-in-law who both love to read, too, so maybe we can exchange good books ever so often. Who knows–we might even start our own book club right on the edge of the mountain. I’m sure the new experiences I have there will absolutely reflect in the 2016 reading log. I have plans to pick up a Farmer’s Almanac and a Gardener’s Almanac next time I’m in the Dollar General store in town. And, beyond that, there’s a discount store in Beckley (about 35 minutes from me) where I can pick up as many books about flowers and plants as I want because they’re really cheap. I’d love a book about flowers so I can learn about which ones are the easiest to grow and which ones need what because I do have plans for a white rose bush and roses are not things I know a lot about, although I’ve always loved white roses (among other white flowers, I also love the white moonflowers/Datura).

bookThere are a few crime fiction novels I plan to read this year, though, and they’re already sitting on my nightstand. AND, I do have some drama, history, and romance novels sitting in my shelf, waiting on me to give them some attention. First, though, I have a book filled with the love letters between Lucrezia Borgia and Pietro Bembo. The book is called “The Prettiest Love Letters In the World” because they truly are. I’ve already taken a peek at them.

scandalsAnd, of course, it’s January 3rd, which means I’ve already read a book this year. It’s was called “Treasury of Royal Scandals” and it was published some years back, but still such a great read. Books aren’t like food–they don’t ruin after a while. They stay great. I’ve learned that there is also a book out there called “A Treasury of Great American Scandals,” which I’d like to add to my collection, too. The author, Michael Farquhar, has many books out I’d like to snatch. Seriously, where has this guy been all my life as a reader? “Treasury of Royal Scandals” was brilliant. It was a great way to start the year, in my opinion.

I’m curious to know how everyone else feels on the subject of changing tastes in books. Is it just me? Do the rest of you change tastes every now and then? I can’t imagine I’m the only person on the face of the planet who sometimes switches from medieval kings and queens to cyborgs and werewolves.

 

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Twenty Things To Do Between Writing Projects

 

booksYay! You finished writing your novel/short story/article/comic/other stuff! I used to love this period of time because of the sense of accomplishment I gave myself after typing “The End” as I grinned like a…well, whatever grins. As most writers can tell you, it’s a wonderful, wonderful day when a project you’ve been working on forever finally comes to a full stop and you’ve told the entire story, start to finish. You’ve conquered the beast!

Now what?

Well, just walk away. That’s the best advice anyone has ever given me and I’m all too happy to pass it along. Walk away from the manuscript and leave it alone. Do other things. Live your life and gain some new experiences before you do anything else. Most writers (though, I can’t speak for everyone) have a family and/or friends who love them and would appreciate knowing they’re still alive somewhere. Now’s the time to reconnect with those people. Or not. Just do stuff.

I’ve made a good list of things you can do between writing projects. I hope it helps someone.

  1. Relax and do nothing for a few days. Writing can drain a person and you need to recharge your batteries.
  2. Do something nice with your significant other. Go to the movies, have a nice dinner or just watch a documentary together on Netflix and eat grilled cheese sandwiches on the couch. Either way, pencil them in and spend some time with them. They’ll appreciate it and you will too. You need this.
  3. Get online, update your blog layout and give it a facelift. Write a fun post or two. Write emails to your friends, return emails from your friends. Clean up your email accounts—delete old emails, rearrange emails you’re keeping. Go through your social media accounts and get them all up to date, too. Get EVERYTHING online up to date. It won’t take as long as you think.
  4. Go shopping and buy pens, notebooks, printer supplies, editing supplies, post-it notes. Go home. Put these items in a box or drawer and just leave them there. Smile that you saved seventy-five cents on your notebook paper.
  5. Buy or borrow five novels or novellas. Make coffee. Start reading the first one. Keep going and read the entire thing in one sitting. Nap. Repeat.
  6. Write reviews for books you’ve read. Post them wherever you usually post reviews.
  7. Go to a museum. If you’re lucky enough to have a museum around town, take an afternoon and go.
  8. Bake a cake, muffins, or cookies. Arrange them on a pretty plate. Take them to your elderly neighbor.
  9. Find a good Youtube channel and learn something new. Sewing, baking, carpentry, anything. Learn how to make brownies in your microwave if you want to start small. Or, you could learn how to build shelves with real hammers and real nails and real wood from a real hardware store—the sky is the limit.
  10. Buy a packet of seeds and start growing something indoors all by yourself or buy a plant at the local nursery and bring it home to care for it. Digging in dirt can be refreshing to creative people. Do yard work even.
  11. Go to your book stash. Whether you store your book all in shelves or in a series of odd places around your house (or just in boxes somewhere), go find your stash. Put an empty box or bag at your feet and dig through your books. Really, really dig through them. Anything in there you know you won’t read again? Yeah, we all have a few of those. You can donate them to local libraries for other people to enjoy. Or, box them up and send them off to a friend who would like to have them.
  12. Contribute or attend a local theater presentation. Is the local theater troupe performing Romeo and Juliet? Buy some tickets to support the locals and have yourself a great time.
  13. Start a collection of something (besides books…we’ve already established that you collect those). Paperclips, glass bottles, antique dishes…whatever you like.
  14. Get a haircut. No, seriously. A lot of writers I’m friends with have told me they sometimes neglect haircuts/salon appointments. Take care of this while you’re between writing projects, even if it’s just a quick trip to Supercuts.
  15. Play music and listen to something you wouldn’t ordinarily listen to. REALLY listen. Listen for the lyrics, decide how the songs make you feel.
  16. Volunteer at a nursing home. Often, our elderly are lonesome and many of them have no one to talk to through the day. Just talking to them is sometimes the greatest gift anyone can give. If you’re lucky, you’re going to be old one day. Remember that.
  17. Read more books you haven’t read yet.
  18. Call your mother. She misses you and while you’re in book mode, she doesn’t hear from you enough. I know this because I’m a mother and I’m also a daughter—I know how it goes.
  19. Reorganize your workspace. Prepare like your life depends on it.
  20. Go snack shopping. Buy coffee, vodka, and cookies. Or, ya know, whatever you like. Now, you may begin writing your next project. I’m sure you have a million ideas by now.

How to prepare for Nanowrimo and other crap…

nanoHow many of you are planning on participating in Nanowrimo 2013? I made a post on Facebook today asking what others were doing to prepare for the month of November and all the National Novel Writing Month entails, but mostly the responses I got leaned toward planning and plotting. Makes sense, right? What else can you do?

Well, I have a list of things that may help you. At the very least, it may make you laugh or give you some food for thought.

1.) Hook yourself up with a good writing playlist. A lot of writers need some music to help them along while others would rather write in complete silence, but if you enjoy a tune, Youtube is a great place to start. But, if Youtube is too much of a distraction–what with their shiny, sparkling videos and all–then you can try a site called Grooveshark.com. No videos, just music and the ability to make playlists and save them.

2.)  I refuse to get into a long debate over the concepts of plotting versus pantsing, but if you’re a plotter, perhaps now would be a good time to jot down some notes or get a few key phrases or reference photos for characterization rounded up and put together in a folder on your computer.

3.) Consider using Google Drive to make your documents or creating a profile and downloading Dropbox to keep everything organized. I use Google Documents through Google Drive because I’m constantly bouncing back and forth between my laptop and my desktop computer. However, Dropbox is equally as accessible and very helpful. I’ve heard great things about both.

4.) On about October 30th or so, go to the grocery store and buy what you need, be it toilet paper and coffee or snacks to nosh on through your adventure into Nanowrimo. You should also make sure you have a few legal pads, pens, pencils, a sharpener, highlighters, or whatever else you may need.

5.) If you’re making your participation in Nanowrimo official, head over to the website (Nanowrimo.org) and make a profile. It’s free. However, you can take part without creating a profile and making it “official” because the greatness behind this particular month is that it gives you an incentive or a special drive to FINISH THAT DANG NOVEL already! LOL.

6.) If you already know you’re going to need some reference materials for your project, locate those things now. Bookmark sites on your computer you might need, locate books you might need as desk references, and get everything together in one spot (or in a folder on your computer). Great places to bookmark would be baby name websites for naming characters and maps of places you’re thinking of including in your story. Another great resource for reference books or other books you might need is Thriftbooks.com. I buy a lot  of used books there because they’re cheap and in great shape and there are no shipping fees in the US (and I just happen to live in the US).

7.) Don’t do any of these things. Just wing it. Some of the best books were written that way.

 

IN OTHER NEWS:

Bones Of Willow Lake has a cover artist! The very talented Mark Hogg will be creating a wonderful cover for my pending release and I’ll report more when there is more information available. Other than that, I’ve been listening to you people. One of the most searched keyterms for this blog is “Demon King Rhiannon Mills sequel.” Somebody really wants more Draken, huh? Well, I hear you and I’ve got something coming.

My Advice For New Writers

Ever wonder what his advise to writers would be like? I'd be afraid to ask him...lol.

Ever wonder what his advise to writers would be like? I’d be afraid to ask him…lol.

A fellow blogger published a post earlier called 10 Things Aspiring Novelists Should know.  Well done.  The link is there for you if you’d like to read it–and you very well should–but, I thought about this over and over and there are a few things I wanted to add to that list.  I had a running commentary in my head the entire time I read the post. I’m not going to give you her post and then my response to it, but rather write an entirely new list.  After all, if I just gave you hers and then added my two cents, you would’t learn nearly as much from either of us lol.

So, without tweedle-dumming around, here is my list.

1–Write whatever the heck you want to write. Just write. And then write some more.  And, after that, write in the bedroom.  Then, move to the kitchen and write in there.  Write all over the place or keep one specific place to write.  But, just write, okay.

2– Read stuff. Lots of stuff.  Read magazines, comic books, romance, horror, science fiction, non-fiction, and pamphlets in the doctor’s office.  The more you read, the better off you’ll be.  After all, a writer who chooses not to read is like a scientist who chooses not to learn the periodic table of elements. It just doesn’t work. Chances are, if you’re not fond of reading, you want to be a writer for money and fame and nothing else.

And as you can see by my overwhelming lack of celebrity status and the missing yacht from my driveway, writers do not always become rich, famous celebrities.

3–Some folks say to write what you know, but I say write what you see.  Depending on the genre you’re writing, you may not know anything about what you’re writing because it may not have been invented or discovered yet.  Like time machines and the planet Uberdork. Some writers will see things they actually do know, which is wonderful.  But, never think you have to fit into a mold and do things by the book just to be published.

4–Create your characters first.  This is a lesson that was particularly difficult for me to learn, but my friend George hammered this habit into my head fairly hard and I think it finally stuck.  And, you know what? He was right.  Create normal people or create immortal creatures, monsters, goblins, or whatever your heart desires.  Give them depth.  Write out a character sketch for these characters and write out some background for them before you start writing your story (if you want to…but, if you’re new to writing, I would suggest at least giving it a try).  As long as you can create real, lifelike characters and really give them their own voices, your story will pretty well tell itself, sort of.  Not completely. You still have actual work to do.

5–Set up a writing schedule and try your best to stick to it.  Stop making excuses.  Sit down and write, even when you’re not in the mood.  You can always go back and change things that ultimately suck later if you have to.  Don’t beat yourself to death if you can’t stick to your schedule to a tee, but make a conscious effort.  You will be much more successful in finishing your projects this way.

6–Read some more, but this time read something in a genre you’re not used to or fond of.  Choose a book you wouldn’t normally choose.  I’ve gone through genre phases throughout my life.  As a kid, I started out reading comic books. By the time I reached eleven years old, I’d moved on to good ol’ Billy Bob Shakespeare.  After Romeo and Juliet, I phased into reading historical romances, then historical anything else, and by the time I was a freshman in high school, I began reading more horror and science fiction as well as romance novels ranging from historical to contemporary to paranormal. Nowadays, I lean toward paranormal novels of any sub genre.  I love horror–zombies, gremlins, imps, witches, and of course, vampires.  I also have a real sweet spot for books of any genre that include time travel. The more you read, the more open your mind becomes the more you’re exposed to new possibilities. Don’t cut yourself short by only reading one thing.

7–Do not limit yourself, your stories, or your characters in any way, shape, form, or fashion.  Characters shouldn’t have to fit any cookie cutter mold and neither should their plots.

8–Take some time to smell the roses.  Go on a fishing trip. Book a hotel in town for the night just to order room service and watch television uninterrupted by your normal life.  Take a walk through the park. Go to your local community center and take a knitting class.  Join a gym. Live your life.  Life experiences make you a better, more perceptive writer.

9–Take advise from more experienced authors, but don’t take it all straight to heart.  Just because bestselling author XYZ drinks 3 oz. of lizard spit every morning because he swears it helps his creative juices start to flow doesn’t mean you should do it, too.  Like most things in life, rules you were taught as children often apply to the writing business–as far as etiquette and common sense goes–as well.  Just because Bob jumps off a bridge, do you think you should jump with him? No. No, you should not. But, you could bungee if you want to.

10–Do not measure your success by comparing yourself to other authors.  Authors who write for the love of the craft are just as valuable–more, in my opinion–than writers who write with the full intent to become millionaires.  You’ll meet your fair share of each of those kinds of authors when you get started. You’ll quickly learn to figure out which ones are which. If you write romance, do it because you love it, not because romance books sell. If you write horror, write the heck out of that stuff! Don’t worry about what Stephen King is doing (but, buy his books because he is awesome).

Alternately, do not measure the worth of another author by the amount of money they make, the status of their publisher, or what their sales are currently looking like.  There are a lot of diamonds sparkling in the coal pile, just waiting to be picked. Well, read. Whatever.

me

A quick note to my followers and anyone else who happened upon my blog:

From time to time, I do post things intended to help other authors along.  We all have our moments of doubt and sometimes we need a push.  Sometimes, when we read things focused on the craft of writing, it ignites a fuse inside our weirdo brains that causes us to write marvelous things.  That’s why I do it. Not because I feel like I have to. Just because I want others to go forth and write. I do like to read, so I suppose it’s rather selfish of me to push others along if you think about it that way… Nonetheless, if you feel like something I’ve said is wrong, please explain which thing and why in comments.  A good conversation or argument with intelligence instead of nastiness is always welcome. 😀

Write on, folks.
Rhiannon Mills.

How to get published and other such nonsense…

I’ve been asked not once, but twice this week how to get published.  I figure this question is best answered through blog since it’s a very broad topic.  For a start, you don’t get published.  There are a million other steps you have to take first.

writer2The first step you have to take is to write a book.  Write from start to finish and don’t worry about the business end of things until much later.  And when I say you have to write a book, I mean you have to have a cast of characters so fantastic your readers can see them clearly and believe they’re real. You have to have a story together that makes sense and (depending on genre) does what it’s supposed to do. 

Step two–Editing.  Oh dear lawd, I hate editing.  I’d rather be stabbed repeatedly than edit one page of a manuscript.  Your best bet is to print off each and every page with at least 1.5 spacing.  Don’t use black ink or pencil to edit.  Use a different color so that it stands out to you.  Be somewhat organized about it.  Then, go forth and edit AGAIN!!  And after you do that, do it again. And again, and again.  When you’re finally sure everything’s in place to the very best of your ability, then you can move on to your computer once again where you will spend countless hours entering all your edits.

And don’t go and assume your work is flawless and you don’t need to edit.  Even Stephen King edits!

Step three–The submitting process.  This step sucks so bad you’ll want to hang yourself by your earlobes midway through it.  First, you have to decide what you’ve written. Is it horror?  Steampunk? Romance? Erotica? Romantica? New Adult? Young Adult? Science fiction? Figure out who publishes those things.  Google helps.  Once you’ve established a genre (and possibly a sub-genre), go ahead and read the submission guidelines to the entire list of publishers you’re planning on submitting to.  Read through carefully! This can be tricky business.

Most publishers are going to ask for a query letter and first three chapters first, which is typically called a partial.  This is the step in the submitting process where you’re going to question your own existence and ask the writing gods to put an end to your misery because writing a query sucks.  I’d rather drink lava than write a query.  But, I have urged through it and I’m a query survivor–several times over.

There are some publishers out there who will ask for your complete manuscript, a query, and your first born.  Send what they ask for.  Which brings me to another evil entity called “Standard Format”…. If the publisher doesn’t ask for any particular format for your MS, use standard format.  If you don’t know what that is, I’m not going to tell you.  Nope.  I had to look it up and you do too.  Why?  Because if you’re serious that you want to write, you’re going to be googling, binging, and hitting the books pretty hard from here on in.  May as well get used to it, kids.

So, where were we? You’ve written a book, decided a genre, submitted to publishers…

Oh, shit. Now you get to just wait for a bazillion years because no one is answering your emails when you want them to.  You’ll be waiting a while, so you may as well start your next project, write some short stories, clean out the storm drains around your house, go to Disney World, write some more short stories, come half way through another novel…

And by the time you do all of those things, you’ll probably have an inbox full of rejection letters.  Cry about it if you want to.  Sometimes it really does help, but remember that all you need is one yes.  Just one.

Now, for the sake of being fair, if you submitted to several publishers at once, please make sure all of them take simultaneous subs.  Some publishers will ask that you not send to other publishers while your work is being reviewed by them.  If you’ve sent to more than one publisher, though, and you get an offer from one of them, make sure you send withdraw letters to the others you subbed to.  You should have kept track of the places you submitted on paper or with a spreadsheet anyhow. It’s common decency and the publishers will all silently thank you for it. Maybe.

fiction-writerYou can bypass all this stuff, though, and just self-publish through KDP or Createspace.  Lots of authors do it these days.  It’s a way to cut out the middleman, so to speak.  Sure, Amazon is going to make money off you, but basically no one else will.

Except the person you hire to edit for you.  I highly recommend you hire someone else to edit your work.  And not me, either. I’m too darned busy with my own stuff. Final edits for The Bones of Willow Lake will be coming to my inbox in the near future and when they’re ready for me to look over and enter, I’ll be a raving lunatic. You don’t want a raving lunatic to edit for you, trust me.

And the cover artist.  Shit.  Yeah, you have to have a cover if you actually want to sell a few copies.  They say not to judge a book by its cover, but let me tell ya, people judge books by their covers…every single freaking day. Unless you’re crafty in that way, please hire someone who knows what the heck they’re doing.  And for Pete’s sake, pay them! Pay them because they’re an artist just like you are and you don’t want to be stiffed, do ya? No, you don’t.  What goes around in the business of writing, tends to come around, linger, and smack you in the face before it runs off again so fast you can’t catch it.

Well, whether you self-published or were published by a traditional publisher, you have a book out and you’re going to have to market that sucker.  You’re going to need a few reviews, some good PR, and friends to push it for you.  Good luck with all that because it’s not easy, either.  Writers are gluttons for punishment, but we’re a strange breed because we like it. Reviewers are sometimes absolutely scathing, but we keep going.  People sometimes mock the very characters we pined over for months, but we keep writing.