#WW: Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

25 Mar

Intro:

Normally, I have guest bloggers on Mondays, but today is an exception. (Shannon accidentally overbooked her website for March). That being said, today’s guest blogger is discussing a topic I’m sure many book bloggers and bibliophiles can relate to: reading goals. We’ve all seen them, the 2015 reading goals, the reading challenges, the reading lists. CL Mannarino is an avid reader who has found herself facing many of these lists, and her enlightening discussion brings up the question of why we read in the first place.

Pros and Cons of Reading Goals

Last year, I had a goal to read 35 books. It was going to be brilliant: I had a whole list of books/series that I would tackle for that year. Each one was designed to either clean out my bookshelf (10 unread books for every 1 book I’d already enjoyed), or round me out into a more aware, well-read person.

Didn’t happen.

Instead, according to Goodreads, I read…maybe 19. There were a few books listed that I didn’t finish. So let’s say 15. That’s generous.

clmannarino_2014editIn the past, this would’ve torn me apart. I would read lists that appeared on Facebook saying, “How many of these classics have you read? Most people read less than ten” and hurriedly go through to make sure I’d tackled at least ten listed. After I could check off at least fifteen, I would smirk to myself and sit back.

Those kinds of things made me feel so well-rounded. Until I followed who would review James Baldwin and Jack Kerouac and I would feel guilty. None of those kinds of writers ever interested me. I was never an Austen person, and the only Bronte novel I enjoyed was Jane Eyre. But because I’m an English major, any post or person, no matter how off-base or high-horsed, telling me “well-rounded people read classics” made me feel guilty for not reading more of them.

It’s why I set my Goodreads goal. These other people – smart bloggers, who enjoyed deep literature that didn’t speak to me but I felt like ought to because I considered myself fairly intelligent – set lofty goals. Read more this year, they said.

They had plans. So I planned, too. And I planned a plan for someone else’s dreams instead of mine.  That, and I’d read about 30 books in 2013, so I thought I could duplicate my success.

I thought I’d be more broken up about it than I am. I thought I’d feel guiltier about reading so much more slowly this year than I do. More than anything, though, I feel relieved.

I didn’t meet the goal, but I didn’t become a less-rounded person because of it. I tackled some pretty important literature, but I also read a lot of duds. And I didn’t finish everything I started. I’d just decided I didn’t want to waste my time with something that didn’t hold my attention.

Don’t be afraid to not finish something, by the way. Often, you’ll wind up coming back to it in the future, when you’re ready to read it.

I think a big part of this guilt-free feeling is that I know more about my ability to fulfill resolutions than I did before. I know my desires better, and I’m not going to beat myself up for not being the kind of reader I expect myself to be. (Or the kind I expect myself to be based on others’ outspoken expectations of “good readers.”)

This year, I’m going to tackle my bookshelf. I’ll widen my horizons a little bit. I’ll read a few things I’ve bought. I’ll read some stories from places I’ve never read from before. Above all, I’ll go where my literary desires take me and keep the pressure off.

Reading was fun for me. It should be, still.

Bio:

CL Mannarino is a fantasy and realistic fiction writer and personal essayist. She works in Massachusetts as an editor while she writes, reads, walks, and bakes on the side. She’s trained in line-editing, extreme shoveling, and home improvement. CL can be found on her blog, her Facebook, or her Tumblr.”

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: Guest Post Showing VS Telling

23 Mar

Intro:

I am very excited about today’s guest blogger. Since recently signing with Clean Teen Publishing, it has been an absolute delight getting to know my new family, and so, I am introducing one of those wonderfully supportive and talented authors, Jennifer Anne Davis. She is sharing fantastic writing advice about the well-known writing tip “Show, don’t tell” below, and I’m very honored to be able to present her words to you.

Showing VS Telling

I just finished reading a New York Times Bestselling book. Because it’s a bestseller, I had high expectations and planned to fall in love with it. However, I was left sadly disappointed. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. After finishing the book, I sat there thinking about it. The writing, for the most part, was decent. The story interesting. So why didn’t I love it?

Because I was told the story. I wasn’t invested in the characters or what happened since it was all telling and no showing. What makes readers fall in love with characters? Why do we root for characters like Katniss, Tris, or Celaena? I believe it’s because the writer takes us on that character’s journey. We feel his or her pain, triumph, and love. In order to be invested and take that journey, we have to be captivated by the story. I believe this is done by showing a reader what’s happening, rather than telling them.

Jennifer Anne Davis on Facebook

Jennifer Anne Davis on Facebook

As a writer, it’s hard to find that balance between showing and telling. For me, when writing my first draft, it’s almost all telling. I am simply trying to get the story out without worrying about how I’m doing it. Once the story is on paper, I go back in and basically rewrite the entire thing so that I am showing the reader what’s happening. However, there are times where I do need to tell in order to keep the story moving along. Usually when the telling occurs, it’s a minor plot point and not of importance. Where showing becomes vital is between characters. I don’t like reading a story where the writer tells me how characters think and feel about those around them. A lot of times, the characters aren’t clear nor do they even understand their own thoughts and feelings. So it’s a lot of fun to read/write a story where the characters’ interactions with one another allow the reader to draw their own conclusions as to what is really going on.

On the flip side, I don’t want to overdo it with the showing either. Sometimes it’s ok to say a character had a stern look on their face without describing what that stern look looks like. Again, there is a fine line between showing too much. You have to keep the action moving along. I think that’s why it’s really important for a writer to have beta readers and critique partners.

Let’s look at one of my paragraphs from The Key.

“The girl’s eyes flew open. They were brilliant like the sea. Her hair was the color of hay, only silky instead of stiff and rough. Darmik wanted to touch it, just to be sure. The girl’s wet, gray dress clung to her body, her bosom heaving up and down from running.”

Ok, so in this paragraph, I don’t tell you her hair is blonde, I show you by giving a comparison. Same with her eyes. Also, by having Darmik notice several details so quickly, the reader has a hint that he is immediately drawn to this girl. The paragraph would have been boring if I’d said:

She opened her eyes. They were blue. She had blonde hair. She was breathing hard from running.

Yuck! So in this instance, telling is boring, dull, and adds nothing to the story or characters. Showing is what draws the reader in, captivates them, and leaves them wanting more!!!

Bio:

ABM_3681Jennifer graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in English and a teaching credential. Afterwards, she finally married her best friend and high school sweetheart. Jennifer is currently a full-time writer and mother of three young children. Her days are spent living in imaginary worlds and fueling her own kids’ creativity.

Visit Jennifer online at www.JenniferAnneDavis.com

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: The Lesson of Cats

21 Mar

The Lesson of Cats

I didn’t always like cats. In fact, I think it’s fair to confess how much I hated them. (A lot). I was raised with big dogs in the house – 3 to be exact – and my only experience with a cat resulted in a large and deep scratch slicing across my face, including one of my eyes. I was seven, but it left an impression.

Over a decade had to pass before I experienced cats again. It was my sophomore year in college and the first year living in a house with roommates. One of my roommate’s friends needed us to watch her cat for a little while, and sure enough, we had an extra (and very fuzzy) roommate move in.

My original goal was to avoid Lucifer (yes, his name was Lucifer) at all costs. But he attached himself to my bedroom and the nearby bathroom. We later found out that the previous tenant who lived in my room also owned cats, so I’m assuming that had something to do with Lucifer’s mysterious affection. Nevertheless, avoidance was no longer an option.

The first time I realized he was growing on my dog-filled heart was on an ordinary morning, right before my Thursday Chaucer course. I needed to use the sink, and Lucifer was using it as a bed. I tried to coax him out. It didn’t work. And I tried to pull him out. Also didn’t work. Eventually, one of my roommates came in, and we attempted to get him out by turning on the sink to a dripping level. He simply locked eyes with us (yes, both of us) and stayed right where he wanted to stay. But I had never seen such puppy-dog-like eyes on a cat before. The determined and begging expression he held as droplets of leaking water sprinkled down his face was, perhaps, the funniest (and most sincere) expression he had held since moving in. It was practically impossible not to fall in love.

Boo Boo and I while writing this

Boo Boo and I while writing this

I didn’t know it yet, but my heart was morphing into a cat lady heart (mixed with a dog lady heart), and I figured that out when Lucifer left. I missed him – a lot – and after weeks of serious contemplation, I began stockpiling cat supplies. That very Christmas, I met my own little fuzz ball, and he was named Bogart, after my favorite actor Humphrey Bogart. If you’ve made a donation, you definitely know Bogart – you have your own customized photo of the guy – but he comes around here often.

I’ve learned a lot because of Lucifer and Bogart. I learned how much love can appear from an unexpected place (if you allow it to), and I’ve learned how destructive it is to allow one bad experience to define all future experiences. If I had hated all cats because of the one cat who hurt me, I would’ve never found Bogart, and I wouldn’t have my best friend.

Since Bogart, I have befriends two more cats – Boo Boo and Kiki – and now, I have three cats where I used to have three dogs in my life. I miss Max, Milo, and Shadow – my dogs – a lot, and I’m sure I will write about their stories one day, but for now, I am quite content writing what I have learned from cats as I sit outside on an usually beautiful March day – with one of my cat companions listening to every word as I contemplate the final product.

So far, I think Boo Boo approves.

~SAT

P.S. I have a LIVE interview on March 28 at 11 a.m. (CDT) via Google Hangouts! You can even ask me questions (and see me). Author of A Time to Reap, Jonas Lee, is hosting the interview right here: “A sit down with seasoned author, Shannon A. Thompson. There will be questions. There will be answers. There will be coffee…maybe a cat, no guarantees.”

#WW: The New Cover of Minutes Before Sunset Revealed!

18 Mar

Small announcement: Facebook removed over 50 likes from my author page this week. You might have been one of them. Currently, FB is removing inactive accounts across all pages, but many are reporting active members being removed. Please visit my Facebook page and make sure we’re still connected.

The New Cover of Minutes Before Sunset Revealed!

logoThe time has come. Today, we have a cover reveal for the second edition of Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy. This novel releases on July 28, 2015 by Clean Teen Publishing, and I would like to send a huge THANK YOU out to their team as well as all of the websites who are supporting me today (in order of sign-up).

Introducing Members of the Dark: Confessions of a Book GeekJera’s JamboreeNicholas C. Rossis, Jonas Lee, Acid Publications, Gnome on Pig Productions, Darkness Rising Universe, Lit World Interviews, Ronovan WritesIn Between the PagesLegends of WindemereA Reader’s ReviewTranquil DreamsBooks for ThoughtAnnette AbernathyLive. Laugh. Read.XO EESHThe Modest VergeEnnlee’s Reading CornerReal Rad ReadsSDAV ReadsCassandra Lost in BooksRed Sands Reviews and RamblingsMs. Me28 ReviewsPau’s CastlesawkwardMEOWEndless ReadingNerd GirlTaking on a World of WordsTrials of a wanna-be-published writerWritten ArtNay’s Pink BookshelfThe Incorrigible ReaderMacy Avenue, Ky Grabowski, Bookshelf of DoomJust Another Girl and her Books,Hines and Bigham’s Literary TrystChris PavesicCoffee Books and ArtRead Watch Think, Making My MarkMel’s ShelvesMacy AvenueNote to Selph Book ReviewsSteampunk Sparrow’s Book BlogPointe Taken, FlannelletteBook Gannet, and Fantasy is More Fun!

::drumroll – even though you’ve probably already seen it by now::

Ta-Dah!

CoverTwo destinies. One death.

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Isn’t it beautiful?

are youNow, go out and share, share, share. We are recruiting for the Dark, so if you want to become a member, email me at shannonathompson@aol.com! You will also get a fancy badge like the one to the right, but it will say “Member of the Dark” instead.

You can also join the Dark here:

Thank you for sharing, and thank you – once again – for being so awesome! We’re all members of the Dark on the inside. :] That is, until I make Member of the Light badges….

~SAT

P.S. I have one more reveal….THE FULL COVER!

11031081_10204198852115003_1870150711_o

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

16 Mar

Intro:

Like most people, I love to laugh. I find laughter to be one of the most relaxing, fun, and often enlightening side effects our emotions contain, and today’s post allows us to experience that laughter all over again – all while discussing a relevant and relatable topic. Writing every day is a popular goal in the writing community, and writer, Dan Pawlowski, is showing just how that can be done in an enjoyable way. He’s also a fellow Jayhawk, so a huge ROCKCHALK goes out to Dan and all KU alumni today.

#MondayBlogs: Grocery Lists with Adjectives

They say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The “they” in question is anyone who ever actually got published, so who am I to argue?

If you have a day job, this becomes a challenge. Add a long commute on top of that and it becomes extremely difficult. I work at a job that has an average round trip commute time of two hours, and my normal workday is at least nine and a half hours. Factor in average guy prep time to reach acceptable levels of hygiene and my day is close to thirteen hours. To write every day I have to get creative. Any chance to use a pen or pencil has to be taken advantage of and exploited past the bounds of normal convention. For example, who said grocery lists had to be boring? “It was a dark and stormy night when the pork chops arrived home with their friends the green beans and applesauce. They had planned a relaxing evening but they had come home to discover their neighbors the potatoes lying cooked in their front yard in a pool of butter and parsley.” Sure, it’s a circuitous way of noting to pick up pork chops, bean greens, applesauce and butter for the potatoes on the way home, but it works.

A writer's hand

A writer’s hand

I find that comment cards are a great opportunity to flex ones literary skills, and since I write fiction, it’s also a great source of fun. “My husband Ralph and I had come to your restaurant to repair our relationship but the years of philandering had done their damage. Ralph was constantly paranoid that your efficient but cute waiter Mario was trying to hit on me as he served us a marvelous vintage of red wine. By the time the Chicken Kiev arrived our relationship was beyond repair but the chicken was excellent. P.S. Have Mario give me a call.”

Frequently, some group or another has often accosted me on the street wanting my opinion on some topical subject. I only stop for the ones that require a written response. You can spot them because they work in twos and one of them is dragging around multiple clipboards.

“Would you like to fill out this short survey on our downtown mall?”

“Is there a comments section?”

“Why yes?”

“Then give me a clipboard and step aside?”

“Um, ok. Here you go sir.”

I go through the check boxes like a compulsive shopper on black

Friday and grab a piece of sidewalk when I hit the comments section.

“To the casual observer it would appear that the man was meandering aimlessly through the downtown mall. Perhaps he was looking to fill an empty void with shiny baubles. Perhaps he was lonely and wanted to experience something other than the four walls of his humble abode. In truth, his was a more nefarious purpose. He was here hoping for the inspiration needed to develop new characters for his next novel. The series had grown stagnant and was in serious need of rebooting. He found that people watching in eclectic locales provided the stimulation he needed. He also found a nice towel set at ‘Bed, Bath and Beyond’.”

Random opportunities such as these rarely offer enough time and space for character and plot development so do not expect any requests for a sequel. They do offer a chance to squeeze some writing into a hectic schedule and give you a fighting chance of achieving your goal to write every day.

Bio:

On the way to graduating from the University of Kansas with a degree in Computer Science, Dan Pawlowski had seriously entertained becoming a writer but he believed his writing paled in comparison to others in a sophomore writing class. Deciding he needed more life experiences before he could achieve success he set aside the notion for later.MyHeadshot

Flash forward 15 years and quite a few life experiences later and Dan had decided that he had enough scars to become a good writer. After several writing classes , posing the question “Where was a certain president during his national guard service,” mixing in some time travel and satire and his first book “Fortunate Son” was born.

When not working his day job Dan is looking for representation for “Fortunate Son” and is working on his second novel “Persecution Complex”. He also continues to write every day and contributes to his blog “The Sound of Laughter

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: Missouri Shows Me

14 Mar

Missouri Shows Me

I recently moved again. This time, I have found myself in Missouri, so Missouri has officially become my sixth state, my fourth in the Midwest, my second for my twenties, and my first for states that begin with the letter ‘M’.

Every time I move, I find myself wondering if that much is really that different. In the overall picture – yes – culture varies across regions of the United States, but – at the same time – people are people. We all have a story to tell. We all have loved ones, and enemies, and moments that have scarred us, and dreams that have inspired us. I find a level of comfort in familiarity, but I also count the ways my life has changed.

In Missouri, for instance, I am noticing the trees. And the hills. And the curved roads and the way the wind changes from the bottom of a hill to the top of it. In my previous state of Kansas, the wind was a constant force – never changing from one corner of the street to the next – and I could see for miles. Now, when I find myself in a car, I find it quite unsettling to go up a hill without knowing what could appear on the other side. Perhaps, this is also a reaction from my car anxiety, but for now, let’s focus on Missouri and what the movement has shifted in me.

miss.23.23 PM

I have a brand-new desk. As a writer, my desk is extremely important to me. In fact, I feel more like I have moved desks than homes. So far, I’m quite found of this little, black workstation. So is my cat.

Every morning, we sit at my unfolded desk, which is situated left of a window – facing even more trees – and at night, I can watch the sunset without moving away from the computer. Sometimes, I wish beauty demanded one to move away from the computer in order to see the beauty outside. Although it’s easy to move myself, I think it would be an even more interesting world if – in order to view something like the sunset – we had to be outside and right beneath it to see it. If we were inside, it would be like the very blinds that do, in fact, blind us on most days. So, I suppose, in some ways, we already live in this world I am dreaming about on a night long after the sun has fallen. I cannot even remember seeing it happen. I definitely did not feel it. And I wonder how something so big – like the ending of another day – can pass by without stealing a moment of recognition.

I try not to dwell in the guilt these thoughts cause, but I mostly try not to lie to myself by saying I will, surely, see the sunset tomorrow. I will (most likely) miss that one, too.

This is much like moving to me. Here I am, contemplating what moving to Missouri feels like to me, and even though I asked myself, “How does Missouri feel?” my only emotions reside in what I decided to bring with me.

Two copies of the first-edition of November Snow sit on the top left shelf of my desk. My new, leather-bound journal is next to them, followed by a marble, cat statue my brother bought me during his honeymoon in Mexico. I have strawberry candies, and pens, and two maneki-nekos – both from Japan via my aunt who works there – and a photo of my late mother, who happens to be that same aunt’s older sister. Those objects, along with my top-ten poetry books (including but not limited to Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Billy Collins, and Erin Moure), have ventured with me.

As I flip through my poetry collection and stare at the trinkets I have as companions, I find it difficult to believe I’ve ever missed a sunset at all. A sunset is not a “thing” – it is a time – and it is constantly moving…much like how I feel moving around the country has always been my way of living.

Moving to Missouri is a living sunset to me, a consistent change on the horizon, right outside my window, always there. And even if I do not see or feel it, it still shows itself to me. I only have to acknowledge the existence of it all – a moment in time, brought on by another ending to another day so a new one can begin.

~SAT

I was a guest writer on Lit World Interviews recently. Check out my blog post, How I Found a New Publisher after Losing One, by clicking the link. Here is a small preview: “Previously in my career, I allowed seven years to pass between my first novel and my second novel. This was because I have made that “I am going to stop for a while” decision before, and while I think it was a necessary lesson for me, I knew I couldn’t do that this time around. Not again. But that was all I knew for certain. Everything else was a looming cloud of ‘What now?'”

#WW: How to Keep Blogging

11 Mar

#WW: How to Keep Blogging

In an ever-changing social media frenzy, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when starting out or even as you continue to grow your Internet visibility. One of the topics I constantly see discussed in the numerous forums I lurk in is blogging. Do authors have to blog? (No.) How many times should I blog a week? (As often as you want to.) But the main question I see is almost always the same. What should I blog about?

It might sound strange for me – an avid blogger – to tell others that they shouldn’t blog if they don’t want to, but I am a firm believer in writing what you want to write, and I use that philosophy toward social media as well. Hate Facebook? Stay off of it. Love Twitter? Tweet all day long. As a reader myself, I can tell when a writer isn’t enjoying their story or their posts or if something is lazily thrown together, and I am no exception. I guarantee someone can tell if I am bored or half-interested in what I am doing. There is a connective energy behind words, and that energy will get through to the reader, positive or not.

Photo from Brains on Fire

Photo from Brains on Fire

Now that I have said that, I can admit that I’ve had my moments where I didn’t want to blog. For those of you who are new to my website, I’ve been blogging on here since September of 2012. During my first two years, a post went up every other day – all of which were focused on reading and writing – but this year I changed my posts to Mondays (guest posts about reading and writing), Wednesdays (my views on reading and writing), and Saturdays (just posts about my thoughts on life).

I’ve allowed myself to morph my website as I grow and change just so I didn’t lose that energy or love. Knowing when to change your focus and energy is going to help you keep your momentum up while also maintaining your exciting and relatable voice. It’s always okay to try something new. In fact, I encourage it.

I have many things I encourage when it comes to blogging – one of which relies on planning ahead, writing posts in advance, and scheduling posts before necessary. That way, if you need to step away for a few days due to any reason, you can without disappearing completely and/or getting discouraged. In fact, I generally schedule posts about two weeks in advance. This helps me manage my life outside of blogging. I could write my entire week of blog posts in one day, which allows me to spend the rest of my week working on other things.

But what do I write about?

Well…I write about what matters to me, and I encourage all bloggers to sit back and consider what matters to them. Do you love Pinterest? Talk about how images and articles on there have shaped a character. Do you struggle with certain grammatical phrases? Discuss how someone can overcome their writing faults. Did you just read a wonderful novel? Share your thoughts on the story as well as how it can reflect everyday life. One topic I think helps beginning bloggers is to write a reaction piece to another blog post that inspired them and link back to that post. It helps connect you with other bloggers and readers while moving a discussion forward.

Topics are everywhere. Pay attention to what you discuss with your friends and family. Jot a note down, and write about it on your blog later. In fact, most of my Saturday posts come from discussions I recently had with a friend.

Blogging doesn’t have to be complicated or deep. It just has to reflect you. It doesn’t have to feel like marketing or work. It can be fun and uplifting. Just let the words guide you toward discussions you care about, and more discussions will follow.

~SAT

editingThis spring, I want everyone to take more time to smell the roses…or just stare at them. In other words, I am taking more clients for my Services. $1 per 1,000 words for editing, first chapter sample is for free, and I can increase book reviews and interviews. I also manage social media pages and so many other delightful areas that take up precious writing time. Here are some reviews.

Feel free to ask me anything at shannonathompson@aol.com. 

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