Welcoming 2016 With Stories and Changing Tastes

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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.

 

Author Crowdfunding Gone Too Far?

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*Disclaimer: No crack was consumed during the writing of this post, or ever, by the author, Rhiannon Mills. 

Being a writer is nothing like I thought it would be when I was nine years old. At that age, I read, for the first time of many, Anne Rice’s “Interview With A Vampire” after watching the film (Nine year old me did everything bass ackwards). I was hooked on writing from that moment forward because, though I’d always loved reading, I realized I could turn the mush in my head into something beautiful, too. From then on, I was a writer.

It isn’t a glamorous lifestyle for the vast majority of us, either. Writers have struggles like everyone else. We have bills to pay, children to raise (and eventually send to college), and, for many, there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything we want to. I’m up before the sun to get my kids ready for school. After that, it’s laundry, grocery shopping, meal planning, and caring for home and hearth while my husband sleeps. But, it doesn’t end there. At 3:30, my husband wakes, showers, and dresses for work while I pack his lunch and stack his paperwork on top of his lunch bag. Then, the afternoon circus begins! The minute I’ve packed his last sandwich and he leaves for a long night at work, the kids waltz through the door and it’s homework and dinner time, which often takes hours. By the time everyone is fed, educated, and bathed, my brain is mush.

And, heaven forbid someone have a doctor’s appointment! I need a coffee IV and crack to get through those days! *See disclaimer at the top of the page.*

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See? Who says you can’t be artistic and make money from it! That is one beautiful cake and two dozen fantastic cupcakes, if I must say so myself.

Somehow, through the disaster that is my life, I manage. My husband, bless his brave soul, is a coal truck driver. To help make ends meet, we budget every penny. I clip coupons, plan weekly menus, look for sales, compare prices on everything we buy and, on occasion, take small sewing jobs for a few extra bucks. We paid our taxes last year with money I earned baking my cousin’s wedding cake.

But, not once have I ever begged other people for money so I could write full time! Sure, I have my husband’s income, whereas a single writer would be on their own, but I really feel like I’d have more time to write if that were the case. Maybe I’m wrong about that. If I am, please leave a comment and weigh in with your own struggles (and cheers to you, too).

I’m quite certain that there are a lot of crowdfunding pages throughout the internet for very good causes. Examples of what I feel are good causes are:

  1. Families or individuals who lost everything to a natural disaster or housefire.
  2. Families or individuals inflicted with a medical crisis.
  3. Those trying to raise money for schools, nursing homes, or programs where the funds will go toward the greater good (example: new library books, walkers for the elderly, or new playground equipment to replace the faulty or unsafe).

Let me be clear.

Crowdfunding is not a means to survival! If an author cannot earn enough money through their books to live on, it’s time to evaluate needs versus wants. Example: You need to eat, but you want to sit on your butt and ponder the meaning of life.

It’s not enough to offer those who donate the prize of a few ebooks or audiobooks. Readers can just buy those from Amazon, lickity split, if they want them. Crowdfunding is not an unofficial welfare program! Your readers are not responsible for your Kibbles-N-Bits, YOU are! Your readers should be respected, not used as your personal ATM. If they enjoy your work, they’ll pay for it and you will earn a royalty check, not a handout from the magic social media fairy.

There’s a real meaning behind the phrase “starving artist.”  If you’re ever going to make it to George RR Martin or Anne Rice status, you have to start somewhere else. Nobody starts at the top. Ask Stephen King about starting small. He talks all about his humble beginnings in “On Writing.” Before you make it, you might have to fold sweaters at GAP or stock shelves at Wal-Mart first. You might even have to serve umpteen Jager Bombs to jerks who like to call you “Sugar Tits” and “Princess Pretty Panties” at a bar that only plays country music (like I did). You might have to work long days, longer nights, and drive to work through snow storms, on icy roads, and work Thanksgiving and Christmas, completely missing out on Grandma’s baked ham and pumpkin pie. But, DAMMIT, those are life experiences and they are worth every miserable minute!

Every single time your boss tells you to work Saturday when you were supposed to have that day off or your paycheck is just ten dollars short of what you need it to be, you’ve added a dirty, scummy, gritty notch in the belt of your worthwhile life experiences. And, you can’t write without life experience.

I may only be a small fish in a big sea, but the water here is fine. I’m not saying I want to be here forever. All writers have goals and mine will one day take me into deeper waters if I’m lucky. Until then, I’m going to put the work in. I’m going to submit novels, novellas, short stories, and magazine articles until editors are tired of seeing my name in their slush piles. I’ll earn my stripes, thank you. The success will taste so much sweeter that way.

 

 

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About Rhiannon Mills

Rhiannon Mills lives, loves, and writes in the mysterious mountains of West Virginia. When she isn’t writing, she’s sewing, baking, blogging, reading, or watching documentaries about any number of things. 

LINKS:

Full Time Author by author Payne Hawthorne on GoFundMe.

NOTE–by all means, donate if you feel this is a worthy cause. Don’t let my opinions sway you. 

Buy Stephen King’s book, “On Writing” from Amazon.

 

 

 

Things to keep in your sewing kit…

Sometimes I sew instead of write. I’m creative like that. It keeps my mind busy and produces things I can actually use. So, I thought I’d do a few sewing related blog posts this summer since I’m in the editing phase of a novel and really need a break from vampires. They’re jerks, ya know…

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1) The first thing you’ll need are hand needles for sewing by hand (duh) and extra machine needles if you use a machine. I buy them at the dollar store most of the time because for a dollar, I can get a big book of needles and for some reason, I lose needles everywhere, so for me, this is practical lol. However, you can also buy little round circle thingies (see photo) at Wal-Mart and Jo-Anne’s Fabrics. They’re sturdier than a paper book of needles from the dollar store, but you don’t get as many needles and also the packaging is the devil. I hate them. But, to each his own!

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2) Scissors. I have several pair in several sizes. HOWEVER, if you live near a family dollar store, you can buy a set of three for cheaps and they cut great. The scissors in my photo are missing a pair. I have no clue where they are. Remember, don’t use fabric scissors to cut things around your house (paper, etc) because it will dull your scissors.

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3) Stick pins and a pin cushion. You can always keep them in a little jar, but a cushion makes more sense for me and it helps. Also, my next sewing post will be how to make a pin cushion, so if you don’t have one, don’t fret. I’ll list the materials at the end of this post so you have them for the next post.

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4) Thread. Again, the dollar store can be awesome for your materials list. Three spools of thread for a dollar and packs usually come with one white and two black or two black and one tan or any variation of the three. Colored threads are found elsewhere usually, but you can buy multipacks of small spools at the dollar stores on the cheap, too.

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5) Measuring materials. I have a measuring tape and a ruler and these work for beginner projects. Later, I’ll show you some other things, but I swear it’s best to learn with just the basics. These are mine. And FYI, my kids brought that ruler home from school the other day. It’s flimsy, but it would do lol.

6) Marking pens. You can buy fabric marking pens from the fabric store or the craft section of your local department stores, but most of the time I use an ink pen, permanent marker, pencil, or a highlighter. I use permanent markers with caution, though! Always mark on the wrong side (the side you won’t see once finished) of your fabric and if you use a marker, make sure it doesn’t bleed to the fabric. Permanent markers work well only on thicker materials–I use them on denim only. I’m not showing you a picture because we all know what office supplies look like…

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7) Seam rippers! These are the best things ever. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. You can just rip it out with a pair of these. The yellow pair in the photo came with my newest sewing machine (A Singer Simple, which is the model I advise beginners to buy if they’re in the market), but the red pair came in a sewing kit I was given. The dollar store usually has seam rippers, but only if you buy a *prepackaged sewing kit.

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8) Extra bobbins (for machine sewers). The case in the photo came with my Kenmore machine. It’s an older machine, probably older than I am, but it was a gift from my dad and I use it just as much, if not more, than my Singer.

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9) A container for extra buttons or safety pins. I have a coffee can full of these types of things, but in the photo you can see any old thing will do. I’ve been known to save tiny sour cream containers, wash them out, and keep them for sewing materials lol.

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10) NOT a necessity, but a lighter can be used for heat sealing. Certain projects, like hair bows, require a heat seal so ribbon doesn’t fray.

You can keep your sewing kit in any container. Shoe boxes work well, plastic caddies from the dollar store also work well and are inexpensive, but you can also buy a sewing box from the fabric store or craft store. I strongly suggest not spending a fortune on them, though. Containers tend to get beat up a lot lol.

Next time I blog about sewing, likely before next week, I’ll show you how to make your own pin cushion because they’re easy and inexpensive to make and also because they make a great beginner project. You’ll need the following items:

1) A little bit of fabric
2) A bowl or round item to trace
3) A marking pen
4) Needle and thread
5) Scissors
6) A little bit of stuffing

TIP– Your material can be anything you have on hand. An old pillow case, an old shirt you can tear up, or material bought from the store. Wal-Mart often has fabric on sale cheap, as does Joanne’s Fabrics. Stuffing is pretty cheap, too, and you can buy large amounts at the store, but you could also dart down to the dollar store, buy a cheapo pillow, and tear it up to use the stuffing for other things (I do this often and the case the pillow comes in can be used for scrap fabric also).