Summer Reading and Vampire Mania

cropped-burne-jones-le-vampire.jpgIs it just me, or are things going back to the way they were pre-Twilight era? I have no idea what’s going on. Maybe it’s because the weather is warmer, maybe because I know fall is getting closer (I’m counting down, y’all), maybe because there are so many awesome summer releases coming, or maybe it’s because I’m an absolute weirdo and an obviously a glutton for punishment.

But, I can NOT get enough vampires and werewolves lately. I’m going bananas trying to find enough to get me through and it appears as though there is a supernatural romance DROUGHT going on right now. I hope I’m wrong and it only seems that way because I’m a whiny loon.

AshleyThere are a few good releases coming that I know of and I’m excited for both. One of them, Twilight Desires by Amanda Ashley, is coming August 28, 2018, according to Amanda Ashley’s website. I’ve been waiting on this one forever. FOREVER, people. And, I am of the personal belief that nobody does vampires like Amanda Ashley. If you haven’t read any of her books, I would suggest you go to her website, choose a title, and go. Any title. Just pick one. You can thank me later. I prefer Dove dark chocolates, cash, and Chilis gift cards.

The second book I’m looking forward to is Serpentine by Laurell K. Hamilton. It’s an Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novel and the release date is August 7, 2018. I don’t have to go into details about this book because every self respecting vampire fan has read the Anita Blake books or has at least given them a chance. Either we like them or no, there is usually no in between there (lol). serpentine

The issue I’m having is that I can’t find enough vampire fiction, particularly of the romance variety. A few years ago, when the Twilight books were in the spotlight, vampire novels were a dime a dozen–and I was so happy about it because FINALLY there were vampires and werewolves getting shelf space in places that didn’t require a ladder or a flashlight to find them. I can remember a time when finding supernatural romance novels was, for people in rural areas in particular, incredibly difficult. Obviously the books were out there somewhere, but locating them took some doing.

I’m not even having any luck finding vampire titles in grocery stores and Wal-Mart. Am I looking in the wrong places? I keep finding every romance genre but vampires and werewolves.

I feel like I’m trapped in a fantasy super library full of every book ever written, sorted by rooms/genres, and I’ve finally read the very last book in the vampire room. I’ve gluttonously read through every single bloody word in every single black book. Every word has been consumed and I’m standing on a table, innocently shrugging at the angry librarian. I’ve read so many vampire novels that I’ve spontaneously sprouted my very own fangs and I’ve sucked the life force out of the genre and left nothing but a husk.

Obviously, that’s not how it happened, but I do have a flair for the dramatic.

So, without any more of my sulking, I leave you with one final plea.

Please, for the love of vampires and books, if you know of any vampire romance NEW releases, you can email me at KellyShrewsbury@Gmail.com or leave a comment below! I really look forward to suggestions.

 

Five Guilty Pleasures

When compared to other people, I’m not a horribly busy person, save for school days and weekends (ha!), but like anyone else, there are things that just make my silly heart happy. Some trendy, some not. Mostly not.

I absolutely love keeping up with Youtube channels I’m subscribed to.

My subscriptions have a wide range, too. I follow a few beauty vloggers, a few mom-based DIY channels, some home decor inspiration channels, and a few channels that made it big with “clean with me” videos. Yes, that’s totally a thing. And, though it sounds downright ridiculous, sometimes you learn things and sometimes it makes great background noise when the house is quiet and I have a job to do. I’ve always been one to stay busier if I know someone else is busy, too and those videos give the great illusion that you’re not alone in the tasks of a tired homemaker.I also follow a lot of crafting/sewing and gardening channels. Those are the ones I typically watch while I have my morning coffee. Or my third morning coffee. Whatever.

When I am alone, I like to browse Amazon for no reason at all and look at all the things I may or may not buy one day. I don’t think I’m the only person who does this. I try to check out the Daily Deals and look at different lists of collections. It may be weird, but nothing makes me smile more than looking at funny coffee mugs on Amazon.

Recently, I have discovered Grove Collaborative, a website which specializes in cleaning products. I’m a lazy person–I’d rather order than go to the store and buy. The cool thing is, there is typically some kind of a discount or a big list of freebies they send you when you make your first order. I got a ton of free stuff for spending only $20. I’ve received my first shipment and am surprisingly delighted at the array of products. Prices–mostly–are comparable to big name brands you can get at Wal-Mart or dollar stores. There is usually a sale or discount being offered on their website, too. I already have a few favorites that I plan on reordering. One, Mrs. Meyers Dish Soap in lavender. It’s really nice. Two, Method all-purpose cleaner in honeycrisp apple. It’s probably my absolute favorite thing ever. And, three, Method Glass + Surface cleaner in mint. It seriously smells like mint. *Disclaimer* I am not affiliated with Grove Collaborative, nor do they compensate me for this post. A lot of bloggers out there DO receive products from them for review, but I review books, not cleaning supplies. Though, one day I just might…

Weigh-in days have become my favorite days… For those who follow my blog or Facebook account, you will know I’ve been on a weight loss journey since June. I have lost over fifty pounds already, though I did take a diet break from Halloween through Christmas. I’m at it again and I’m loving my results. I have become half-mom, half-scientist because I now read a lot of health and fitness articles whereas I used to just not (ha ha). Weigh-in days have become much needed confidence booster days. I am enjoying my success to the fullest and I think I probably really deserve it. I’ve worked hard to come this far and failure is simply not an option.

Ibotta and Retail Me Not. Those are apps I keep on my phone. I just got Retail Me Not, so I’m not sure if I’ll continue to enjoy the coupons and discounts it finds for me, but as of right now I love it. And, as for Ibotta, who doesn’t like a rebate on things they’ve already purchased? Both of these apps save me money on just about everything. Both are easy to install, easy to navigate, and I like money–I’d like to keep as much of mine in the bank as I possibly can. After all, I have kids to raise and a family to feed. And cats. Those little buggers are expensive, too.

Obviously, reading is another guilty pleasure, but I didn’t list it because I feel like you probably already know that about me. I’m reading something awesome right now, as we speak. Review to come tomorrow! Until then, tell me what your own guilty pleasures are? I could have seriously listed ten more, but I probably would have lost you all after six or seven.

Riverdale, Batman, and Other Things I’m Into Right Now

Right now, I’m into a lot of things that I wasn’t into before–times, they are a changin’ and me with them. But, I promise all of the recent changes I’ve made in my life are positive, or at least aren’t hurting anyone (myself included). As a matter of fact, I’m sure you’ve already seen the post about my diet, right? Well, there are other changes, too. Some big, some small, but all of them relevant to the speed at which life whirls by.

BatmanThe first change I’ll mention is that I’ve expanded my repertoire. Review repertoire, anyway. Now, I am reading a bigger balance in material. I did, after all, start out as a reader with comics. Coming sooner than you think (the 17th of this month) will be my review for Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition. It’s available for pre-order right now, but Amazon is giving a teensy weensy sneak peak inside (as they do all books) if you’re antsy. I’ve already been diving in there and I can tell you this–it doesn’t disappoint and my review is going to post on the release date. But, not only have I been reading and reviewing more comics, returning to a first love, I’ve been reviewing more romances, too. I have missed the genre. I never left it, but sometimes I drift and, this time, I drifted into realism in every sort. That’s a story for another day, but stay tuned for those reviews, eh? I promise I’ll try my best to give you all the skinny on the newest releases in books other than hard case and sci-fi (although, I’ll have those, too).

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Don’t taunt me. I’ll cut you.

And, speaking of reviews–have you people been checking out Riverdale on CW (Netflix and Hulu also)? Because, geez, it’s like crack. I can’t stop watching! I was a bit under the weather one day and watched every stinkin’ episode of the first season and now I need the second season to just hurry up. I understand that I have to wait for the 11th for the season premier, but I’ve already got the DVR set to record it in case we have a natural disaster or some other satellite connection destroying catastrophe. It’s not exactly like the comics, though some elements are there, but it’s great TV, y’all. The CW finally got a hit, as far as I’m concerned because I don’t usually like teenager aimed television shows. I’m serious, people–don’t go messing around with my new favorite show. I’ll cut somebody.

Cole-Sprouse-Facts
And, Cole Sprouse? The Cole Sprouse who is now 25 (LEGAL) years old and stars as Jughead Jones? **Whispers** Call me. 

I’m serious, folks. Riverdale is where it’s at. Also featured on the show are Josie and the Pussycats. Remember those ladies? They are fantastic. Each character is given more depth than any of the cartoons could have imagined and season 1 of Riverdale had me really pulling for Val and Archie to be more of a thing, but that didn’t happen, so…bummer, right? Right. 
PerryulrichFun fact: Both Luke Perry (90210) and Skeet Ulrich (Scream) were Teeny Bopper magazine cover frequenters in my day. All the girls loved them. And, both of them have roles in Riverdale. . . As parents! Because, if you didn’t feel old enough, you might need to know this. You’re welcome!

Moving right along.

I’ve recently dived into a task I have only, until now, kept in my head. I’m creating my own planner. I’m designing the pages on my laptop, printing them off, and collecting them in a three ring binder so that I can keep track of myself. Sounds a little too housewifey, but I really do need to keep a planner because I’m always forgetting things and losing information, like appointments. The planner I have now wasn’t anything fancy. I bought it at a dollar store. But, it has a monthly calendar and also pages that are week by week and allow you to go in depth with planning ahead or note keeping. I was thinking if I created my own planner, I could tailor it to my needs. I want to keep the function of a monthly calendar, but I would also like weekly pages that have a space already there to keep track of weight changes, the weather, a separate page for monthly book reviews, and maybe a place to write out my menu plans. Plus, I’m crafty and I have some cool images to put to good use. I’ll let you all know how this goes and maybe I’ll even share the pages I create with my blog readers.

If that’s something my readers would be interested in, just let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to share my planner pages with you (for FREE because people seriously charge for that crap….*eye roll*).

So, with fall activities my kids are doing at school and at home, crazy good fall TV, and some really great book reviews coming up, it looks as though I’m set for a cozy start to the cold weather season. If there are shows coming up or books you want to request I review, let me know. I’m open to a lot of different genres now and, frankly, I’m bored.

Until my next update post!
XOXO, Rhiannon M.

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Review and release coming October 10, 2017!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books I haven’t enjoyed…

cropped-snapshot_20150626_1.jpgSometimes when I go through my review pile, I come across books I don’t like. It happens and I hate it because in most cases I know there will be other people who might really love those books. So, I try my best to write an honest review and give the author their fair reviews.

I have a list of those books here. And, for the sake of fairness, I’m not going to write a full review of any of them because I don’t feel like I’m the right person to do so. However, I feel like there is a handful of books that deserve some attention and a few mentions in my blog as being books I would recommend to friends, even though I didn’t enjoy them myself.

Off Rock by Kieran Shea

This book was good,but I didn’t finish it because I wasn’t interested. The beginning is strong, as a beginning should be. Characters are fleshed out the right way, too, but the story itself found me looking for something else to do by the third chapter. iO9 gave it a great review on Amazon (link above, just click the book’s title).

The Age Of Olympus by Gavin Scott

Duncan Forrester’s research on an Aegean island is interrupted first by the murder of a British archaeologist, and then by the outbreak of the Greek Civil War. The worship of ancient gods may provide a clue to the murderer, but in such a tumultuous time, little is what it seems.

Another one I couldn’t get into. I think I had such a hard time with this novel because it’s the second in the series and I haven’t read the first one. I may remedy that one day soon. There is already a third in this series for pre-order, so I assume the author is having some good success with these books. I wish him all the best, too. If you’re interested in this book, click the title and check it out.

The Vinyl Detective- The Run Out Groove by Andrew Cartmel 

His first adventure consisted of the search for a rare record; his second begins with the discovery of one.  When a mint copy of the final album by “Valerian”—England’s great lost rock band of the 1960s—surfaces in a charity shop, all hell breaks loose. 

This one is another that is a second in a series. I have no idea why I keep ending up with books that are out of order from series, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. As a general rule of thumb, a writer’s job (when writing multiple books in the same series) is to ensure that the reader can enjoy the book out of order without feeling something is missing. That is sometimes not how it is done, unfortunately, but with this novel (which I DID manage to finish, even though it wasn’t my type) I was able to set it apart and it could easily live on its own. Kudos, Andrew Cartmel. It still wasn’t my cup of tea, but I would recommend it to others, so it is here, in THIS post instead of on its own, though I’ll give it its own rating on Goodreads and Amazon. I may actually pass this book onto my daughter as it seems more her speed than mine! As always, click the title and head over to Amazon if you’d like to know more or purchase your own copy.

 

Stay tuned for more reviews and some overdue ones! I’ve just gotten my little office nook into order and figured out what on earth was going on with my blog. Technical issues are not my strong suit. 

But, nonetheless, keep calm and read on, folks! 

 

How It Began

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Yes, I am always this attractive…

I was nine years old when I decided I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t really know what the job entailed, but I had wonderful examples available to me whenever I chose to have them.

My mom took me to the library often. We lived in Winchester, Indiana at the time and I remember those library trips well. Winchester had a great library, too, but it wasn’t cold like small town libraries often are. I was always happy to shed my coat to wander between shelves and decide on my reading material for the next two weeks. Somewhere, there would be a coffee smell wafting around, though I never discovered the source. Happily, I discovered a sincere love for books and the people who created them.

Particularly, I learned to enjoy Anne Rice. I was young, but I was always ahead in my Reading classes. I could comprehend far ahead of my level and that was in part due to boredom in my earliest years. The film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview With A Vampire came out that year and I got a VHS copy. I don’t remember who bought it for me or when I first watched it, but I do remember being completely enamored with the world of the undead, possibly because Brad Pitt was in the movie. And, in a move I now detest, I read the book after I watched the movie, rather than the other way around. I discovered thick and thorough description and how words can be beautiful if you string them together in certain ways.

From there, I learned of other vampires and monsters. Vivian Vande Velde became another favorite author quite quickly. The young adult section at the Winchester public library never knew what hit it. I was wide open and those characters were more than just intriguing. I couldn’t figure out why I, like so many other people out there, was so drawn to them. By the time I was eleven, I knew all of the folklore associated with the creatures of the night.

Of course, it was not just vampires. I also read werewolf stories. I read classic literature, beginning with some of Shakespeare’s very best tragedies. Before I knew it, the reading material at school bored me to no end and I had surpassed the expectations of my teachers. I still enjoyed reading the required novels in classes, but it wasn’t the same as reading the books I chose myself at the library. I began to wonder if there was ever going to be more to learn or if I was just going to flounder around in search of new books, new concepts.

Along with the reading material I spent hours with, I kept journals and notebooks full of words strung together that probably only made sense to myself. I looked at sentence structure only when doing homework. But, in the safety of my bedroom, the words I scrawled on notebook paper were written only to please me. They had meaning and were often thrown together in haste because I learned that writing when angry or upset was the best medicine for anything.

And, I was angry and upset an awful lot. There was little going on in my life that I didn’t take issue with. I wanted to ask why a lot. Every day. I questioned everything because I was stubborn–where most kids my age just accepted their lot for unchangeable, I wanted to know why.

Why do I have to live in a place with a shit economy? Why couldn’t I go see my dad when I wanted to? Why was everybody voting against Bill Clinton when he obviously knew what he was doing? Why are adults so grumpy all the time? Why can’t I live somewhere closer to town so that the library and stores to shop in would be just a skip away? And, most importantly, why doesn’t anyone ever listen to me? Do I even exist?

At some point at this period in my life I even wrote an entire short story about why I hated living in a house surrounded by corn fields.

Everything always came back to vampires, though. There was a young adult book by Annette Curtis Klaus called The Silver Kiss in which the hero doesn’t exactly get the girl.  Most vampire books I had read up to that point had involved a vampire hero who always turned the girl of his dreams so she could be his mate forever. Or the head vampire was killed so that he could be human again and be with her. Or, maybe they just ran away together. But, not The Silver Kiss’s hero.

In the book, the main character’s mother is dying of cancer. The girl is at a very impressionable age, going through very real situations. The vampire in the story doesn’t whisk her away to a better life or make her forget her problems. Instead, his immortality forces her to face her mother’s impending death. She is shown what a life cycle really is. Everything that is born must die one day. It is the natural way of things. And, of course, the vampire’s day comes too. He doesn’t turn her into a vampire. He doesn’t tell her flowery, beautiful things about being undead. He is killed. He dies. And, the main character, Zoe, is forced to go on with her life without her mother and without Simon, the vampire she once knew.

Something about reading a story about a creature who obviously couldn’t exist and being able to pull a small, but immensely strong, sliver of truth out of it really hit me. Life isn’t pretty. Life is not about the hero impressing a girl or saving her from her own boredom. Life is messy and dirty and gut-wrenching. Truth is most certainly stranger than fiction, as they say. The feeling I got when I read about Louis and Lestat living as the undead or about Simon dying even though he’d been given immortality is one that I still, to this very day, cannot describe in a way which would be sufficient to another person. No matter which words I chose, it would not be enough to portray the twisting in my guts and stalling of my heart. Life is short and pain is inevitable, so I write as a buffer between the two.

rhiannon-mills

7 Things A Writer’s Spouse Should Expect

GaimanI sometimes feel very, very sorry for my husband because he’s stuck with me. I’m not the easiest person on the planet to live with. I blame being a hermit for the majority of this, but there are other reasons, I suppose. I’m difficult. Plain and simple. But, I’m a decent writer. So, if you’re in a relationship with a writer and you are planning on marrying them, there are things you should come to expect.

  1. Expect coffee- Expect it at 6 AM, noon, and 4 PM. And sometimes at midnight.
  2. Expect silence- Writer spouse will sometimes vacate all senses. He/She will disappear into their own world for long stretches of time. It is in my experience that these stretches of time are optimal buying times for presents for the writer. Or, ya know, a good time for the spouse to have a bowling night or catch a movie with friends. Whatever.
  3. Expect messy hair and pajamas- I can’t write very well if I’m uncomfortable. And, I can’t shower if I’m in the middle of a big scene.  I know I’m not alone in this.
  4. Expect a blizzard of post-it notes- These little pastel colored sticky paperlets (Is that a word? Heh. It is now.) are excellent for jotting down single thoughts or making short lists of murder suspects. And, they’re all over my kitchen. Also, I have index cards and other piles of papers all over the place. Don’t worry. They file away nicely in large zip-lock bags.
  5. Expect nary a dish to be washed- I wash dishes, sure. But, I don’t wash them when there are only a few in the sink. Now, I realize this drives some people crazy, but shut up. No, really. Shut up. I refuse to abandon my manuscript for three coffee mugs and a couple of saucers.
  6. Expect your bed to be vacated in the middle of the night- Have I mentioned that sometimes the mood to write strikes at the weirdest times? Like, when you’re lying in bed…Because it does.
  7. Expect take out meals- I don’t think a lot of folks would complain about this. My husband doesn’t. The man loves his pizza. Little Caesar’s drive-thru window is a place we frequent. Nobody can beat a quick meal for $5 a pop. But, sometimes cooking is just not on a writer’s mind. Neither is eating, for that matter. Sometimes we just forget that there are other people in the house and that, by most standards, food is expected to be served at some point.

 

Why I’ll Never Write A Happy Ending

There are an awful lot of romances in my stories and I try to make them as realistic as possible. I don’t go for characters no one can ever resist–the brooding, muscle bound hero meets the dainty, helpless damsel in distress–and I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s real and it’s something a lot of readers can identify with. I read a lot of romances, too, and I love them. I just don’t want to write them.

gentlerogueRomantic heroes are often stereotyped and, while that may suck, there’s a reason for it. Apparently, lots of women like the man next door, the hunky fireman, the long-haired, shirtless werewolf… And, this stereotypical romance hero is often given a bad name for being just that, so let’s not do that here. As I said a paragraph ago, I read a lot of romances. I like them. But, you’ll never see Fabio rescue a fair maiden and ride of into the sunset on a unicorn in one of my books. Never.

The closest to a perfect romance novel hero I’ve ever come to writing was The Demon King. He was close, but no cigar. He had the look, he had the brooding demeanor, and he had an excess of power, but he was flawed from the beginning because he wasn’t in it to marry the girl and live happily ever after. I just don’t think demon kings get that sort of an ending. Realistically, they might achieve other goals, but how on earth would a romance really work in the Underworld? I just don’t get it.

Moving past romance novels, other stories with happy endings make my head spin, too. Does every single time traveler make it home safe to live out the rest of their lives as though they hadn’t just traveled through space and time? What about the traveler who becomes trapped? Or is obliterated en route? What about the traveler who wanderers onto an alien planet and is captured by the emperor of the Zed People and thrown into a rusty cage for the rest of his life?

And, what about crime stories? Does the PI always capture the bad guy? What if they didn’t? What if the main character lets the guy go because he’s paid an amount of money he simply can’t refuse? Or, what if he doesn’t let the bad guy go. What if, during the climax of the story, the PI meets up with the mass murderer in an alley somewhere and the murderer does what he does best–murder?

I don’t write happy endings. I did when I was a kid, but then life floated through me and I through it. At some point in my life I realized that not every story has to have a happy ending to be a good one. Not every book has to end the way we all want it to. Characters can fall into their destinies the way in which they are meant to and the endings of THOSE stories can be just as satisfying, just as wonderful, just as horrifying as a story with a happy ending. And, people will continue to read them because some of us enjoy a good book full of wonderful, flawed characters doing beautifully flawed things. I enjoy it when the outcome of a book isn’t what I might have thought it was going to be. I don’t like coming to the last chapter of a story and already knowing what’s going to happen before it happens because at least a million other stories have ended that way. I like to be surprised, both pleasantly and otherwise.

I think that’s why I’m drawn to horror and realism. There isn’t always a happy ending in those stories and it’s almost expected that the author is going to shred their character’s lives into a zillion pieces. I like that, no matter what’s going on in my life, I can crack open one of these stories and realize that it’s entirely possible that someone else out there might just be having a worse day than me.

All of the many things that go through my head kill me sometimes. I’m a constant thinker. Sometimes my thoughts are darker than velvet and sometimes they’re light as air–but, they are always realistic because I can’t stand the thought of writing a story that isn’t somehow true (even if it’s not). There’s no way on this earth I could ever convince myself to write a story where everything turns out okay because that’s just not how the world works. I will always tie up loose ends in my stories and if I leave something up for interpretation, it’s because sometimes life does that, too.

gwtw
“I can’t go all my life waiting to catch you between husbands.”- Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind

Romance novels are notorious for their happy endings (there are few without them, but Gone With the Wind comes to mind, though I don’t think that book was classified as just a romance novel). It’s totally possible that I might write romance again one day, but know that if I choose to do so, you’re not going to see the hero rescue the damsel in distress and ride off in a million dollar car to a million dollar wedding where their friends and families are waiting on them with smiles and bags of rice to choke the birds with.

It’s more likely that my romance novel will end with the anti-hero and anti-heroine in some sort of stand-off. They might be together at the end of the book, but at what costs? Their fortunes? Their dignity? A limb? Or, possibly even their very lives.

I don’t write happily-ever-afters because that just isn’t real. People pay taxes, they lose properties, they have accidents causing permanent impairments, and they fight like cats and dogs (or demon kings and half-mortals, as the case may be). So, ask me again why I don’t write happy endings.

In short, because shit happens, that’s why.

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“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”-Rhett Butler, Southern gentleman not giving any damns (on film) since 1939.

10 Things For Writers To Be Thankful For

snoopy-writing

 

  1. Free word processing programs. A lot of writers are on a tight budget (who would have thought, right?), so sometimes it’s convenient to have free MS Word Alternatives. I’ve used Open Office many, many times and I like it quite a bit. It’s more than adequate. Remember the days when computers came equipped with Word? Those were the days, huh?
  2. Coffee pots that turn themselves off. Sometimes, when writing, one might forget to get up and turn it off themselves. Not naming any names or anything…
  3. Friends who are also writers. Online, offline, or anywhere in between, sometimes only another writer will understand what’s going on in our heads. Spouses, children, parents, and other friends may try and do a really great job supporting us, but when you have a deadline and you need a shove, sometimes it just takes another writer to kick your butt into gear. AND, they sometimes know of submission calls you’ve never heard of.
  4. A comfy writing spot. Is it just me, or do other writers out there also have a favorite spot to write? In bed? On the couch? Outside? In the car? You name the place and I promise I know a writer who prefers to write there. I even know a lady who likes to write in her bathroom floor. Beer may or may not play a role in that scenario.
  5. Failures, great and small. Without them, we wouldn’t grow and learn. We all have them. If a writer ever tells you they’ve never failed with a project, they’re just lying.
  6. A life story. Everybody has a life story. Some are normal, but of all the writers I know, I only know a few with a normal upbringing. Experiences gained through childhood and beyond shape who we are as people and that seeps into a person’s writing in so many ways. Be thankful, even if your life has been shitty. Or don’t. That’s up to you.
  7. Bookshelves (or boxes, crates, stacks…) full of books. These are our greatest tools. You can’t write if you don’t read.
  8. Beta readers. These people are crazy important. They’re our test subjects, sort of. They read our books before anyone else. Good betas give honest feedback. I have a beta I know will tell me the truth. If my book sucks, she’ll say, “Honey, this is trash. Fix this shit.” And I totally love her for it.
  9. Imagination and the willingness to use it. Why would a twenty-something scientist’s assistant take off in a beat up Ford to venture into alternate realities, knowing death was always a likely scenario? Because I wanted to write that, that’s why.
  10. Foods of convenience. Frozen or delivery pizzas, ramen noodles, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, microwave meals, soup in a can, Chinese delivery–while I don’t suggest on living off of these things, they come in handy when you have a deadline or when you’re at the end of your novel and you just have to keep going or else you might burst.

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.

Not All West Virginians

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My son during the fall of 2013, sitting on a tree stump. A beautiful West Virginia storm knocked it down from my grandma’s yard.

I live in an unincorporated town called Itmann, West Virginia. Itmann used to be quite the little place, settled on the outskirts of the big (ha!) town of Mullens, crammed between a river and railroad tracks and a whole lot of mountainside. There used to be a school here, from what I’ve been told.  But, now, Itmann is a few hills full of old houses–most of them coal camp houses redesigned over the decades to look like normal houses– and a couple of bears and maybe a few snakes and squirrels here and there. We don’t even have a gas station. But, we do have a post office, so we have that going for us, right?

I’ve lived in Itmann since I got married in 2001. Since then, several houses in Itmann have become empty, void of human life, and are now falling in or will be soon. And that’s not just in my little town, that’s my entire county and most of the surrounding counties, too. Southern West Virginia revolves around the big nasty business of coal and when the coal mines aren’t producing, they lay people off. When mass amounts of men and women are laid off, they either go completely broke here or move elsewhere. It’s a sad fact, but it’s a reality that all families here have to face every single day. But, ya know what? We face it together.

 

I wake up every morning and get my kids ready for school, just like everyone else in the United States. But, instead of a bus pulling to the curb to pick them up, they walk to the bottom of the hill to be picked up. We make this walk with my neighbor and her kids, so after the kids get on the bus, my neighbor and I walk back up the hill together and chat about whatever’s going on, which mostly consists of our kids and what’s on sale in the local stores. We wave and say “hey” to the other neighbors on the hill as we walk because it’s 8 AM and everybody is starting their day, too. We come to my house first and, at the bottom of my driveway, she and I say goodbye for the time being and go our separate ways. I go inside my house and quietly check my email because my husband, who works nights driving a coal truck to fill up the trains my neighbor’s husband conducts, is sleeping.

See what I did there? I just showed you an example of how everything around here revolves around coal–even for those who are not coal miners.

On a typical day, I do laundry, pay bills, watch tv, play with my cats, and call my mother. I write, I cook, and I sometimes grow plants in the dirt outside–and then eat the fruit that comes later. I listen to music–David Bowie right now–and I keep my phone close in case the kids or my husband need me when they’re not home. I’m just like everyone else, I guess, but there are a few things about living in West Virginia the rest of the world seems to always get wrong.

For one thing, not all West Virginians are hooked on prescription pills. Sure, there’s an epidemic, but I’m taking no part in that and I’ll have absolutely nothing to do with those who do. I’ve seen horrifying things happen to people who I love, thanks to the pill problem around here. It kills me to see someone I was once close to throw her (or his) life away over a few pills. Families here are being torn apart by drugs and it’s happening at an alarming rate, but there are a lot of drug free people here, too, so don’t get it twisted, dears.

smartNot all West Virginians are stupid. There are stupid people everywhere. But, there are a lot of really smart people here, too. Sometimes I wonder why everyone thinks people in West Virginia are a bunch of shoeless, uneducated hillbillies, but then I remember that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks as long as you’re happy. And, for the most part, I am. The truth is, however, that a lot of college educated people in this state come back home after earning their degrees and end up in the mines because there really isn’t much else here that will pay a living wage. Those who don’t want to work in the mines and aren’t willing to wait for a different kind of position to open up just leave the state. But, just looking around my neighborhood, I can honestly tell you that each one of my neighbors has a good head on their shoulders–and I know this because every family up here has been here for at least thirty years or more. We all know each other quite well. If I ever need help with something, chances are, I need only look up the hill a little ways or down the hill. There are a lot of writers, doctors, lawyers, poets, and excellent teachers in West Virginia. One need only look to find them.

Not all West Virginians are toothless, either. I’m sure some of us are. For example, I wear a partial. It’s not because I’m a hillbilly, either. It’s because I had five pregnancies back to back and, during my fourth pregnancy, I took seven (YES, seven) different pills and supplements just to keep all of my levels where they should have been, but it wasn’t enough to keep my son alive and it wasn’t enough to keep my teeth from leaving me. That particular pregnancy took every bit of the vitamins out of my body to keep my son alive and, in the end, I lost my son and, about a year or so later, a few teeth. However, we have some great dentists here. Most WV residents have beautiful smiles. Even me, with my partial.

ballgame
The only ballgame you’ll ever catch me watching.

Not all West Virginians love football. Some of us, like me, prefer quieter activities, such as writing, reading, and sewing. WVU seems to be the team of choice around here, though I really wouldn’t know because the only thing I get excited about on TV in the fall is Dr. Who’s new series on BBC. I have a lot of friends who love football, though, and that’s okay. They love my football hating, grouchy self anyway.

Not all West Virginians go crazy over pepperoni rolls. I don’t. I can’t eat them. They’re lying little bread rolls! You look at them and think there’s a pizza in there, but when you take a bite, it’s just pepperoni and bread…and mozzarella if you’re really, really lucky. Come on, people. Take me to Lucy Lou’s (pizza)and keep your pepperoni roll lying liar bread things to yourselves.

Not all West Virginians listen to country music. I DETEST country music. A minute ago, I was listening to David Bowie because I love him and his androgynous self. Right now I’m listening to “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” being performed by Prince, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, and some other folks…all together…on one track. It’s totally blowing my mind, I love it that much. Sometimes I listen to Tori Amos. Sometimes I am more in the mood for Rammstein. I even listen to Tool. But, you will never, ever, ever catch me listening to country music unless it’s Johnny Cash. And let’s face it, Johnny Cash was just one of the first punks but sounded so country because he grew up playing it that way (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).

I guess the moral of this blog post is that you can’t judge a person by where they live. I hate it when people do that. Not just to West Virginians, but people from anywhere. It’s ridiculous. And, now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I’m going to go watch some Dr. Who play ball while I help my son with his homework.