January’s Ketchup

31 Jan

January’s Ketchup

2015 has already brought great changes to my life as a writer, reader, and blogger. Since I’ll talk about it more below, I’ll just take this moment to thank everyone for their tremendous support over this emotional month. I have exciting news and updates coming in February! So, look out for that. Until then, here is a summary of January.

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up.” At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog post, my top referrer, SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this January!

Big Moments:

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

#1 Clicked Item was Take Me Tomorrow on Amazon

I lost my publisher at the end of December, but I didn’t talk about it publically until this past month. I was blown away by all of the messages, emails, tweets, and Facebook posts you all sent me, and I will never forget how encouraging every single one of you were and how you continue to support me through this difficult time. I promise I am not giving up! And I am working hard to bring you all a new happy beginning soon. I love all of you!

Another delightful part of this month (and hopefully for more months to come) was how many new authors began working with me through my independent Services. Having this opportunity has brought an endless amount of joy to my life. I hope February connects me with more authors and writers, so please share my Services page if you can. I strive to create affordable and reliable relationships with Indie authors by editing, marketing, and connecting readers with books – but you can read more about my work by clicking this link.

Top Three Blog Posts:

  1. My #1 SEO Term

    My #1 SEO Term

    I Lost My Publisher: This was very hard for me to write out my heartbreak, but I will let everyone know that my heart has slowly begun to heal with all of your love guiding me.

  2. Writing Complex Female Villains: Written by Siamese Mayhem, this guest post delivered a hilarious narrative over a serious issue with females in fiction.
  3. What Scares Us: Nightmares and cats and life.

Other Blog Posts:

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. If you would like to review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Reviewers:

Take Me Tomorrow: Brianna’s Bookish Confessions

Minutes Before Sunset: MacyavenueThe Book Forums

Seconds Before Sunrise: Book Gannet

Death Before Daylight: Pau’s Castles, Tranquil Dreams, Ennlee’s Reading Corner, Read Watch and ThinkEndless Reading

Interviews: The Book Forums

Features: Write Out Loud, Capybara

Calculated on January 29, at 19,252 followers

Calculated on January 29, at 19,252 followers

Website Wonders

28 Jan

Website Wonders:

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of January’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing and Authors as well as Reading. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to like my Facebook page because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Writing and Authors:

8 Unstoppable Rules for Writing Killer Short Stories: A great little list.

Where to Find the Best Free Stock Photos: This was supplied to me by a fan, so I had to share!

Can I Mention Brand Name Products in My Fiction?: A fantastic and informative piece.

How Dreams, Goals and Habits Make You a Wildly Productive Writer: We could all be a little more productive. ;]

20 Quotes From The Greatest Love Letters Of The 20th Century: I am a sucker for love letters. I even own a paperback full of the greatest love lovers ever written, but surprisingly, none of these were in the text that I own, so I had to share these!

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Reading:

Before The Internet, Librarians Would ‘Answer Everything’ — And Still Do: I love librarians. I have always known how important they are, but it was further proved to me during my time at KU. Tami Albin saved my life.

 27 Places That Are A Book Lover’s Dream Come True: My dreams!

10 Stephen King Short Stories That Should Be Films: I will add this: as long as they directed it right.

American Libraries: This is a giant archive that you can research and read for free.

6 Beautiful Libraries You Need to Visit Right Now: Oh, the places you will go.

~SAT

THIS IS THE LAST WEEK YOU CAN BUY ANY OF MY BOOKS.

(Sorry for the bolded capitalization. Sort of.)

Links:

Minutes Before Sunset: AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsKoboDieselSony, and AppleGoodreads.

Seconds Before Sunrise: AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsGoodreads.

Take Me Tomorrow: AmazonBarnes & NobleSmashwordsGoodreads.

#MondayBlogs: Inner Dragons

26 Jan

Intro:

Mondays are easily becoming one of my favorite days of the week – all because of the guest bloggers right here during #MondayBlogs! Today’s post is brought to you by one of my top commenters last year – Deby Fredericks – and she is writing about writers and their inner demons…or dragons. Check out her website and her books!

Inner Dragons

We writers often do battle against doubts, fears, writing blocks, etc. Call them inner dragons. If we aren’t careful, we can sabotage ourselves with negative self-talk.

One common inner dragon is the fiendish beast Comparison, which makes us treat writing like a competitive sport. Say you struggled for an hour to finish a single page, 250 measly words. Then on Facebook an author friend brags about their wonderful 2,500-word day. It’s too easy to compare word counts and decide you’re a slacker because you didn’t get as much done.

Or when your publisher is a small press and only pays royalties, you might hear publicity of another author’s six-figure deal. That can make you feel like a failure because your deal isn’t as rich.

Comparison depends on a backward definition of success. It wants you to focus on the end of the process while you’re still at the beginning. Every page you write is a battle. Life is so hectic, anything you complete is a victory. A single page, a stanza of a poem, a chapter of a novel — they all build to something larger.

One of my favorite writing quotes is from the late SF author, Jay Lake. “If you write one page every day, you will have completed a novel in a year.” Believe this, and go slay that dragon!

Air&FireAnother inner dragon we writers often battle is the dire monster, Futility. This dragon wants us to become obsessed with things we can’t control. This might mean editorial rejections, sales figures, negative reviews, or the length of time it takes an agent to answer your query.

Even worse, writers sometimes make New Year Resolutions based on things we can’t control. “Sell five short stories this year” is a perfect example. All of these are things we can’t control, but I have several friends who consistently work themselves into a tizzy, swear to quit writing, then apologize to everyone who got worried about them.

Let’s just be logical. We have no way of knowing, when we query or submit a story, how many other queries and submissions will arrive on the same day. We don’t know what else is going on in the editor’s or agent’s life. We have no way to know what past experiences readers bring that affect how our work appears to them.

A more productive approach is to focus on things that we can control. We can’t make purchasing decisions — but we can set a goal to write five stories and submit them. We can’t make readers buy our books — but if we self-publish, we can choose enticing covers and work our social networks to increase sales. We can’t make agents represent us — but we can gather data and present it in a way the agent may look upon favorably. To attract friendly reviews, we might give a few reviews ourselves.

To quote that one song, we just have to “let it go” on things that aren’t ours to decide, and do the rest just as well as we can.

Do you ever tell people about your writing? I hope so. You’ll have a hard time building an audience if you don’t. Even more important, do you tell people about your work in a way that slights or insults yourself? “Oh, it’s just a hobby of mine.” “I’m not very good at it.” “It’s a little poem/song/story I write. Really bad, isn’t it?”

If any of these phrases sound familiar, you’re a victim of the evil dragon Self-Minimization.

I often hear writers minimize themselves. Sometimes men, but more often women. Our culture has this thing where we teach men to stand up and speak for themselves while women are taught to sit down and be quiet. But, as writers, we simply can’t afford to sit quietly.

Naturally, everyone has moments of doubt. The competition is intense and rejection hurts. Minimizing ourselves can be a way to deflect pain. It can also be a chain that holds us back. If your spouse said to you, “Why are you wasting your time with this?” you’d be pretty upset. You’d defend yourself. But when it’s your own voice saying, “You’ll never sell anything,” self-defense is that much harder.

Deby Fredericks

Deby Fredericks

It’s because the competition is so intense that we must slay this dragon. No one ever sold a story without submitting it first. Self-Minimizing can be as much a habit as a reaction to stress. Begin to train your brain for the battle. “Yes, I’ve been writing for ten years.” “I’m getting pretty good at this.” “It’s a poem/song/story I wrote. Isn’t it great?”

Funny thing is, most people will take you at your word. If you say you’re a poet or author, they’ll believe you. Once you fight off that self-minimizing dragon, you’ll see how high you can fly!

Bio: Deby Fredericks is a small press author of fantasy and children’s novels. The latest is a book for middle-grades, Masters of Air & Fire, due in February 2015. Her blog, Wyrmflight, is all about dragons, and her home on the web is http://www.debyfredericks.com.

Want to be a guest blogger? Wonderful! I am accepting guest posts that focus on reading and writing. You are allowed a book link in the post as well as in your bio. A picture and a bio are encouraged. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I’ll look forward to hearing from you!

~SAT

#SATurday: Writing in Shackles

24 Jan

#SATurday: Writing in Shackles

I recently found out I have early-onset carpal tunnel syndrome. I wasn’t even sure if that was a rare disorder for a female 23-year-old. Apparently, it is. I honestly don’t know much about it at all, but I am definitely learning. Being told I have to wear wrist splints for 6 weeks was my first lesson. As I’m writing this, I have successfully failed my first attempted night with my sleep shackles. Sort of. One is off so I can write. Across my desk, the other waits with open arms – or fasteners.

I have to confess that up until recently I always thought writing was the exception to the once-you-get-old-you-can’t-do-that-anymore rule. Unlike sports.

When I was 19, I worked in a small Mexican joint called Los Cabos, which I guess means I worked in the Midwest “capes”. I actually find that quite suiting since the air conditioning broke that summer, causing two hostesses to faint from the heat. But there was one coworker I remember quite vividly. He was a year older than me, working as a waiter until he could “figure things out”. I wasn’t sure what he meant until our boss allowed us to wear shorts (due to that pesky AC), and I saw his secret. It was impossible not to. I asked him about his overly intense knee brace.

As it turned out, the guy had a full ride scholarship to play football at one of those fancy universities I won’t bother naming. On the first day of practice – during the very first day he was living his dream – everything changed. He blew his knee out, and the scholarship was revoked. No more school. No more football. No more knee. But he could be a waiter.

I’m not judging waiters. I’m not. I worked in a restaurant for four years, after all. But the idea of dedicating 20+ years to your passion – in this case, football – and losing it from one injury has always (and deeply) disturbed me.

That was why I found extra comfort in my passion for writing. It was injury-free, practically safe. Potential insanity was my only concern. Not physical pain.

shackles

In my naïve head, I truly believed the only way I would lose writing was if something bizarre (and probably horrible and tragic) happened to my hands – a car wreck severed my fingers, a cancer consumed my veins, a disease peeled off my skin, etc. You get the picture.

I’m not sure why I thought this. Correction: I’m not sure why I let myself believe this. My late mother had rheumatoid arthritis, nerve damage, and Reynard’s Disease – all of which affected her daily hand functions – but she always had perfect nails. They always looked nice. Maybe that’s why some of her health problems never truly sank in. She appeared physically able – most of the time – to 11-year-old me anyway. But now – in this moment – I wonder what it would be like if she were still alive. I wonder if she would say anything to me about carpal tunnel. Maybe she could deliver some comfort by explaining how she overcame her daily pain, but I suppose she eventually succumbed to her pain instead of overcoming it, and I believe that’s why I might be entirely too disturbed by something – apparently – so regular. In argument, blowing out your knee is common, too, and so is losing your dream.

I don’t think I have lost my dream, but I feel for those who have.

If writing were a crime, wrist splints would be shackles and carpal tunnel would be the punishment of jail. Six weeks is my current sentence – but at least it’s only a lifestyle change, an adjustment, per se. And even I know my dramatics will subside if they haven’t already. Writing calms me. The pen allows me to breathe free air. And when I’m done writing this out, I will put my wrist splints back on as splints – not shackles – and I’ll take them off in the morning so I can write again. But until then, I feel for that waiter with the blown out knee and that girl who wasn’t tall enough to be a stewardess and that colorblind kid who only wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force.

I hope you found another dream to live,

~SAT on #SATurday

#WW Why Dedications Are Important

21 Jan

Why Dedications Are Important

Today I wanted to cover a topic I find personally important in my novels. It may not be as vital to every author out there, but I place a lot of my heart into dedicating my novel to someone for many reasons, and I thought I would share why. I’m also going to be using the dedications in my own novels as examples. This is not to say all authors must have dedications, but I will say why I find it important as a reader and as a writer, and I would love to hear your reasons for loving (or disliking) dedications in the comments below!

 1. Readers

As a reader myself, I always love reading dedications at the front of a book. First, it allows me to have a sneak peek at the author’s personality. Second, it might hint as to why the book was written – which, in itself, will deepen my own connection with the book right from the start – and third, it can remind readers there is a person behind the work they are about to read. A dedication is almost like the author coming up, introducing themselves, and stating what matters to them. Even if it’s not entirely clear – like I don’t know their brother or why they are so close – I do know they have a brother, someone they care about, and the courage to share that love for that person with the world right next to their hard work.

The dedication in book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Minutes Before Sunset reads, “Dedicated to my roommates, Kristine Andersen and Megan Paustian, for the timeless memories and unfailing support.”

For those of you who have followed me since the beginning, you might remember the day my roommate, Kristine, died, but Megan, Kristine, and I lived together for years, and the effects of those years remain close to my heart. Being able to express my gratitude for their friendship was indescribable, especially since MBS released seven months after Kristine’s death. Without them, I’m not sure I would’ve ever pursued publication again.

three

2. Authors

As the author of the story, it’s both a sad and happy moment when I complete a novel, but without fail, whenever I finish writing a novel, I remember when it began. I’m not sure if I am strange or not, but I remember the exact moment a story is born, even if it’s a small moment, and I am eternally grateful for that moment – even if it seems crazy.

The dedication in book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Seconds Before Sunrise, reads, “Dedicated to Calone – for showing how the darkness can be brighter than the light.”

What you don’t know is probably obvious: who is Calone? What is she talking about? Well, for one, you might have read My Dream. The Timely Death Trilogy was born from a series of night terrors and nightmares I was having during a very difficult time in my life. The focus of these dreams became a boy – the very boy my protagonist, Eric, is based off of – but back then, in real life, his name was Calone. My sequel is dedicated to someone who is not technically real but he is real to me, and his presence is the singular reason the trilogy existed in the first place. He also did exactly what my dedication says: he showed me how accepting fear and pain can grow into something stronger than strength. Through that, the concept of Dark vs. Light (with the Dark being the good guys) was born, and the second book was written. (In case, you haven’t been following for a while, the second book was written before the first, so that’s why SBS was dedicated to him rather than MBS.)

3. The Inspiration and the support

As the author, I never forget those who have supported my novels the most. I know many of you haven’t read Death Before Daylight, and I’m still incredibly sorry it will not be available for purchasing, but – again – I would like to take this moment to remind all trilogy readers that you can get a PDF copy of DBD for free simply by emailing me at shannonathompson@aol.com. Now that that is out of the way…

The dedication in book 3 of The Timely Death Trilogy, Death Before Daylight, reads, “Dedicated to Alex – for dreaming up daylight in a dark place.”

Alex even came to my book signing last year!

Alex even came to my book signing last year!

Alex has been one of my closest friends since I was 11 years old. She is also the reason the trilogy is a trilogy at all. Originally, it was only going to be the first two books, but then, she dealt with all my crazy conversations about this book, and one night, she had a dream about it. She told me every last detail, and with her permission, I morphed it into the last book of the trilogy. If you’ve had a chance to read it, the dedication will probably make even more sense, but this dedication opportunity finally allowed me to thank her – almost seven years after she had that dream.

In the end (or the beginning of a novel) a dedication serves a purpose. The words show a connection, a reason, and a lifetime of acknowledgements. Novels are never born on their own. There are many people and inspirations that allowed a book to make it into existence, and even though I will soon lose mine, the moment of sharing a dedication will never cease to breathe life into my love for writing and for those who have inspired me. As someone who has a difficult time expressing my emotions in person, dedicating my work to my loved ones has been my way of showcasing how much I care about them. So, consider sharing your dedications with those who inspire you. They might get the chance to see how one small sentence can mean so much to so many people.

~SAT

Check this out: Write Out Loud wrote an article – yes, an article – about my services that I provide for writers both as an editor and as a social media assistant. Here is just a small quote, “I don’t know anyone else on the fiction-writing scene who has such a well-rounded knowledge of the industry. With the new author in mind, Shannon offers very low fees for editing service starting at $1 per 1,000 words for content editing and $2 per 1,000 words for proofreading.” If you want to read the full article, click on this link. If you want to check out my services, click on this link.

After such a rough time recently, I can honestly say working with fellow writers has been one of the most uplifting experiences in 2015!

#MondayBlogs: Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

19 Jan

Intro:

Today’s guest post on #MondayBlogs is brought to you by author, Jeffrey Allen Mays. I had the honor of getting to know him after AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. signed his debut novel, The Former Hero, and I encourage everyone to check out his website as well! After all, this energizing post was originally shared on there, and his insightful encouragement revolves around a topic all authors shudder at – writer’s block. Hopefully, after this post, writer’s block will become a thing of the past.

Goodreads asks: How do you deal with writer’s block?

Goodreads recently asked me to write a response to this question: How do you deal with Writer’s Block? Here’s what I said.WritersBlock21

We need to ask, What is ‘writer’s block?’ And we should be clear, it is not a clinical condition the way it sounds.

Swimmer’s Ear. Tennis Elbow. Tourette Syndrome. Erectile Dysfunction. Writer’s Block.

So-called ‘Writer’s Block’ is a state of mind in which a writer’s brain is not being particularly imaginative. For mere mortals, I think it is fairly common. Quotes you see on Facebook (at least, I have seen) to the effect that for ‘real’ writers there’s no such thing  as Writer’s Block are certainly annoying, but more to the point, they are just an expression of arrogance coming from one who apparently has a lot of natural activity in the creative part of the brain. Good for them. But even Hemingway lost it toward the end of this career after having the ability to write great stuff seemingly effortlessly, and then wax philosophic about it.

So I say, let’s take Writer’s Block down a few notches. Don’t resort to pharmaceuticals, and don’t define yourself by it.

When I can’t seem to get the motor running, I use a combination of going somewhere outside of the house, reading literature that I find the most brilliant and stimulating, and then, and this is the main thing, I muscle my way through (I did this yesterday). I sit in front of the blank page/screen for a long time doing nothing but thinking. Then usually after 2 or 3 hours (interrupted by coffee refills, ordering lunch, checking email, going to the bathroom etc.) I give up and just write something stupid:

“Dave was walking down the sidewalk.”

And from there I ask myself, What did Dave see? What interesting thing happened to Dave? And then I come up with, “Dave found something meaningful on the sidewalk” or “Dave had just emerged from donating blood, so he was woozy” or “Dave saw a homeless man lying still and feared that he might be dead…” And away I go.

No joke, it took me 3+ hours to get started because it’s been three weeks since I fed the monkey. I struggled with rereading everything I’d already written (it was a short story), but I knew that would take 20 minutes, and I would feel the need to start editing.

But I couldn’t think of something new and interesting to happen to my character. So I started with something stupid.

This may just be my new Writer’s Mantra. Start with something stupid.

Afterward, you can delete the stupid stuff. No one has to see it. The trick is letting yourself write something stupid. That may be the hardest part of all. Good luck!

candh.noodle.incident

#SATurday: The Scar of Childhood

17 Jan

The Scar of Childhood

Mine is on the left side of my right leg, directly below the knee. I cannot describe the shape because it depends on the temperature of the day and what I was wearing. Sometimes, that piece of scarred flesh is blue, but most days it radiates red. The biggest scar from my childhood will probably never go away – as most scars do – but I mean to say, “go away” in another way, in a way others bring it up over and over again. In other words, my scar bothers people.

It is nothing new to me. The bits of whispers or gestures caught in my peripheral senses reflect the summer days I dare to wear shorts. Sometimes, someone even asks if I’m okay or if I need a Band-Aid. I don’t judge them. After all, I am aware of how red the burn scar gets after a day in the sun. Up close, it can look like it just happened. From a distance, it sometimes appears to be bleeding.

Gross? Definitely. But I do wish I could wear shorts without questioning the number of people I will surely gross out during my daily commute. Being asked if I have a disease from a complete stranger isn’t exactly a confidence boost, so I generally wear pants all year around – just to avoid all the trouble.

I’ve tried to overcome this insecurity of mine. Trust me. I have gone through the stare-all-you-want phase. But it ended somewhere along the way – on a day I was too tired to explain, “No, it isn’t contagious” and follow up with the explanation of where it came from.

In case you were wondering what a Vino moped looks like

In case you were wondering what a Vino moped looks like

It happened in 2006. I had just turned 14, and I was celebrating with my favorite gift from 2003. My father had gave me a Vino moped painted a merlot red (my favorite color). Why he thought this was safe for a teenager is still beyond me, but it wasn’t illegal on private property nor is it rare for preteens and teenagers to have mopeds and dirt bikes in the Midwest. Plus, I did drive it for two years without incident. The third year, 2006, brought the incident.

We had a forest of acres behind our house. If you’ve read Take Me Tomorrow, these are the same trees Sophia falls in love with – the trees I crashed my moped into.

It’s impossible to explain the logic going through my head that day, but the forest had mowed trails I drove on all the time. Perhaps it was familiarity that allowed me to ignore the dangers of that specific day. The difference this particular moment was the small amount of moisture on the ground. The end result was enough mud to sling my back tire out from under me.

The engine landed on my leg.

I guess that is how scars are born – singular moments, sometimes in moments much like other moments, with only one dramatic change, but the scarring moment stays with you forever while all the others melt together or melt away.

For me, childhood is much like that scar – a collection of good memories I cannot separate from one or the other and a few, very defined moments I cannot sever from my every day life – but I would not wish it away.

The absence of my scar might make my daily life easier – simpler – but I would lose a story to tell. I would lose MY story. I would lose me.

~SAT

P.S. I have worked with some wonderful authors this week through my Services, and I wanted to give them all a big shout-out! Check out their work by clicking the links below.

threeuahotrs

A Time to Reap by Jonas Lee (YA, fantasy, time-traveling)

Red Queen: The Substrate Wars by Jeb Kinnison (YA, thriller, modern-day dystopia)

Along the Way to Happily-Ever-After by T.N. Carpenter (self-help, memoir about marriage)

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