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May’s Ketchup

30 May

May’s Ketchup

Can you believe it? Another month has flown by. And it’s still raining here in Missouri. Almost constantly. It’s actually rather unusual weather for us (to this degree), and I’m starting to wonder why I tend to begin these with a weather report. (I have no idea, but I enjoy it.) Alas, May has ended, and flowers have bloomed, and exciting stories have come and go. During my recent move (and by “recent”, I mean seven months ago), I wasn’t able to bring my bookshelf, so my the books I’ve read are stacking up . . . just like my excitement for the future! We are only two months away from the release date of Minutes Before Sunset, July 28, but I’ll get to that in the Ketchup!

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 posts, my top referrer, #1 SEO term, YouTube videos, Members of the Week, 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 May!

Big Moments:

DBDcoverThe cover for Death Before Daylight released—and I’m beyond excited that Death Before Daylight will finally get into the hands of readers this September. In the meantime, Minutes Before Sunset releases July 28, and it is up for pre-order. (The pre-order link was also my #1 clicked item, so thank you!) I’ve been receiving all sorts of inspirational and encouraging messages from you all regarding The Timely Death Trilogy and future novels. So much so, that I’m at a loss for words. But I will say that this summer and fall are sure to be fantastic! A book signing is already underway, and the content disclosure trees have already released. On top of that, you can still enter to win one of three paperbacks of Minutes Before Sunset via Goodreads.

My #1 clicked item was pre-ordering Minutes Before Sunset! Thank you!!!

My #1 clicked item was pre-ordering Minutes Before Sunset! Thank you!!!

Top Three Blog Posts:

1. Authors, Be Yourself: It’s easy to get intimidated by what other authors are doing. See how they have more followers? They even have higher sales! You should copy them to get to where they are, right? Wrong. There’s no reason to fret, and there’s absolutely no reason you should change yourself. This article talks about what you should concentrate on—and that’s being yourself.

2. When Writing is Not All You Do: Written by John Tompkins, this article addresses a viral article that went out a few weeks ago about authors working full-time. John discusses the differences between full-time authors and authors who work full-time on top of working as an author.

3. The Thing About Author Interviews: Written by Jonas Lee, this article discusses the importance of overcoming your nerves and getting out in front of your audience so they can get to know you. (His interview channel is also open to interview you!)

Other Blog Posts:

Guest Post:

My Book Story on The Modest Verge: I was asked to discuss a novel that has affected my life, and I talk about A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah.

#1 SEO Term: Wattpad

#1 SEO Term: Wattpad

YouTube Channel:

Book Girlfriends (5.19)

Ex Machina and Robots (5.15)

Book Boyfriends (5.13)

Love Triangles (5.05)

RUSBSAt 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. I also like to specially thank the Members of the Dark. Every week, I award one member a “Member of Week” badge, and out of those monthly members, one of them will win an eBook of their choosing as well as more prizes. If you would like to be a member or 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.

Dark Members of the Week: A Readers Review, Mel’s Shelves, In Between the Pages, Legends of Windemere (Also, a shout out goes to the winner of the bookmark for helping with the Death Before Daylight cover reveal, Crazy Beautiful)

Reviewers:

Minutes Before Sunset: The Schwartz Reviews, Crazy Beautiful

Seconds Before Sunrise: Crazy Beautiful, MacyStories

Features: Death Before Daylight featured on April’s Favorite Reads

Calculated on May 27 at 19,753 followers

Calculated on May 27 at 19,753 followers

Website Wonders

27 May

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 May’s Website Wonders categorized into Publishing, Vocabulary Fun, Reading, Social Media, and Just for Fun (a.k.a. cats, art, and futuristic things).

If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Publishing:

Surviving the Slush Pile: written by Sherry Ficklin, best-selling author and gatekeeper of Clean Teen Publishing, this article has amazing tips and pointers for those struggling to get a contract. (She also makes a call for submissions!)

Vocabulary Fun:

14 Words That Are Their Own Opposites: Ex. Sanction (To give permission or to oppose a penalty on)

23 Perfect Words for Emotions You Never Realized Anyone Else Felt: Sonder . . . the realization that everyone passing you by has their own life.

Origins of Words and Phrases: Why do we say it’s raining cats and dogs?

27 Brilliant Words You Didn’t Know You Needed: Errorist. I feel like one of these quite often. 

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Reading:

12 Books About Social Injustice: This is a great list.

12 Great Overlooked Books for Living Minimally: Lots of self-help books about positive living.

The 20 Best Opening Lines for Books: Might strike an idea for writers struggling to write their own opening line!

Books To Be Considered Well Read: Just for fun!

Social Media:

Canva: Create YouTube channel art and more! Full disclosure: This was sent to me by a representative for review, and I think it’s a great website if you need a forum where things are simplified. They also provide fonts and photos, but most of them do cost a few dollars. That being said, they have free options. It’s worth checking out.

Just For Fun (A.k.a. Cats, art, futuristic stuff):

 Cat Con La: Cat Con is a thing. And Simon’s Cat creator will be there! I love him.

Artists Uses Discarded Keys To Create Unique Décor: This is beyond magnificent.

A Timeline of the Future: So cool!

I hope you enjoyed these! See you with more Website Wonders next month!

~SAT

#MondayBlogs: The Thing About Author Interviews

25 May

Intro:

If you’ve been following me for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard me mention Jonas Lee. He’s a fantastic author—both as a writer and as a supportive participant in the Indie community. I’ve even had the absolute pleasure of being interviewed via Google+ and appearing later on his YouTube channel (which you can watch here), and I make it a point to always listen to his latest interviews. That was why I chased him down and asked him to write today’s post. Jonas Lee discusses the importance of interviewing authors . . . and he’s also open for authors to sign up for an interview on his channel! For interview requests, please email Jonas Lee at JL.Fiction@gmail.com, and tell him I sent you. But if for some reason, you need more convincing, (wink), read his post below. I highly recommend talking to this wonderful author!

#MondayBlogs The Thing About Author Interviews

Who in the hell would want to know more about me? That’s the general thought I had when I first received a request to do an interview. Then, I was inwardly squealing with delight, Someone wants to know more about me! Now, I’m not famous (yet) so it felt a little weird to answer questions about my writing style and advice to give to other aspiring authors at the time. The thing is, most people who want to publish a novel, never do. It’s not because they are bad writers or can’t deliver a good story. It’s because they get to that proverbial edge of the cliff, overlooking the ocean and just…can’t…jump.

It’s friggin terrifying! Leaping with your work in hand off into the Indie Ocean (I should trademark that). In the water there are thousands of other authors. Some swimming, others floating. Some are making enough noise to be seen by anyone while some very worthwhile and prolific authors are content treading water. We all want rescued and by that I mean we want our stories heard. The best way to do that is getting attention and swimming together. How do you do that?

Networking is the new game, my friends. Swimmers in the Indie Ocean have an almost secular bond we don’t fully understand. Simply utter the word and you have a brother or sister in arms. We all fight the same struggle and essentially bleed the same blood. So, we band together and interview one another. We review each other’s books and throw out nods, tags, mentions, hashtags, recommendations and whatever we can in the spirit of fellowship.

Why are interviews seemingly important? They deliver a message, plainly. It’s your message through the eyes and pages of another author/blogger/reviewer. It’s a glimpse into Oz behind the curtain. Putting a face or a personality to the name that created a work of other worlds or situations is almost more than words can capture. I love reading interviews by my favorite authors and especially thankful to call some of those authors my friends now, present company included. Plus, beyond the stories we create, we have our own stories of getting there and how we came up with them to begin with. Interviews are like the Extra content on DVDs/BluRay movies.

Me, personally, I love answering questions and I tried some 2-dimensional Q&A’s of my own. I started doing something in the spirit of a stepping outside my comfort zone. I began interviewing other authors on camera…live. I’ve had a few hiccups thus far, but overall, I’m not doing too shabby. My whole purpose was to shine a light on authors and soon to be published authors who are out there swimming in the Indie Ocean. Putting voices to faces and personalities to the writers who create some fantastic worlds is my goal. Plus, I’ve made some great friends and I look forward to making many more.

Bio:

jonas002Jonas Lee was handcrafted from the area around the Black Hills of South Dakota. Living in the ever-changing climate with his wife and daughter, he likes to keep his mind occupied with entertaining stories and thought provoking scenarios. A child of the 80’s, his imagination has always been rampant with thoughts of time travel, other dimensions, and the fight of good versus evil. As such, you can see how prevalent those thought are in his stories.

Jonas is the author of The Legend of Carter Gabel series about a young boy who is “afflicted” with the genetic disease of spontaneous time travel. Carter soon realizes how his illness has many other side-effects and the situations surrounding his life and those like him are about to take a turn for the dangerous. If the snarky humor doesn’t grab you, the plot should do the trick.

Books: A Time to Reap and A Time to Live

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 Lightning Lesson

23 May

#SATurday The Lightning Lesson

When I was little, part of my bedtime routine was taking a shower at night. But—as my mother would have it—we had one very important rule. No showering if there was a thunderstorm outside. She told us we’d be electrocuted if we did.

Now, being little and a future artist, you should know upfront that I was a tad bit dramatic as a kid. (Maybe a little today, too.) But there was one night where a babysitter said I had to take a bath before my parents came home . . . even though it was raining. I freaked out. And by “freaked out”, I mean screamed and cried while I took a birdbath out of the sink (and I’m pretty sure my babysitter considered quitting her job because I never saw her again.)

Fast-forward a few years later and I got over my phobia my mom instilled in me. I wrote it off as one of those nuances she had, one of those personality traits or funny stories you tell around the table . . . until I got strep throat. That day, while I was napping around the house, I happened to watch Myth Busters—the taking a shower during a thunderstorm episode. And if you’ve never seen it, I suggest you watch it (if you want to be terrified of thunderstorms for the rest of your life, that is). I tried to find a legal sample clip, but alas, Myth Busters charges $1.99 via YouTube, so here’s an article that explained what happened in the episode: Is It Dangerous To Take A Shower During A Thunderstorm?

Lightning photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.

Photo provided by Bruce Guenter, modifications made under creative commons license.

Now that you’re statically charged, you must feel how I felt—horrified that I ever doubted my mother. She wasn’t a dumb woman. What trekky could be? But—being a teenage artist—I think rebellion came naturally, even when she wasn’t physically here to rebel against. (I am walking proof that you can, in fact, rebel against the dead . . . and I say that with the utmost respect . . . especially now that I’m older and realize how right she was about, oh, everything.)

You see, originally, I wrote this off as a nuance—something I said above but didn’t entirely explain. While growing up in Kansas, she lived in this two-story house on a golf course, and the old chimney had been struck by lightning numerous times. Numerous times. I still remember my grandfather sarcastically repeating the phrase “Lightning never strikes the same place twice.” Because it does. At least, it did. It struck my grandparents’ home—the same one I wrote about in The Secret Garden of Trees—and later, while we were living in Georgia, our neighbor’s tree was struck with lightning. I cannot even begin to describe how loud that moment in my life was. But there was fire, and then, the rain came down so hard that the fire was gone, but the tree was split to the roots, and my mother and I happened to be sitting in the living room near it when it happened. I thought lightning was just a phobia of hers. Now I realize lightning is just a part of nature—as obvious as that sounds—and it’s better to be cautious of it but also to recognize the beauty of it.

Nature has a way of reminding us just how human and fragile we are, but nature also shows us just how majestic the world can be. It is both frightening and fascinating, but today, I find those two words are very much the same when held under the thunderstorm umbrella of respect, and I respect my memories of nature just as much as a cherish my memories with my mother . . . yes, even the lightning hitting the tree one.

~SAT

#WW Death Before Daylight Cover Reveal and News

20 May

#WW Death Before Daylight Cover Reveal and News

I’m sure you’ve already seen it by now, but the cover of Death Before Daylight released by Clean Teen Publishing today! (Insert fangirl scream.) First, I want to thank all of the websites that helped me:

Crazy Beautiful, Ennlee’s Reading Corner, Red Sands Reviews and RamblingsThe Modest Verge Book Blog, In Between the PagesEndless ReadingDowie’s PlaceCharles E YallowitzThe Acid Oasis: The Journal of Adrian Blackraven, Annette AbernathyJust Another Girl And Her BooksThe Schwartz Reviews, DallasUp2Jonas LeeChris Pavesic’s Author Page, SDAV Reads, Trials of a wanna-be-published Writer, Tranquil DreamsawkwardMEOW Productions, Live. Laugh. Read.Cassandra Lost in BooksMel’s Shelves, Pau’s Castles,  One Guy’s Guide to Good ReadsA Readers Review, The Book Gannet, T.B. MarkinsonThe Book ForumsJera’s JamboreeNicholas C. Rossis (posting on the 21), Macy AvenueLittle Birdy Book Blog, and The Avid Book Collector!

These wonderful Members of the Dark helped today happen. Cheers to them. On top of that, one of them won the wonderful little prize of a signed bookmark. Congratulations goes out to Crazy Beautiful!

The winner!

The winner!

If you would like to become a Member of the Dark (or Light), please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. Your email will never be given out, and you’ll only receive messages about future events and prize opportunities. One member wins any eBook from Amazon every month.

Now that all of that has been said and done, here is the cover:

DBDcoverDeath Before Daylight

Two eternities. One ending.

“Harmony would only come with destruction.”

The moment Eric and Jessica are reunited, they are torn apart. After the appearance of a new breed of shades and lights, the powers shift for the worse, and all three descendants find themselves face-to-face in the Light realm. When Darthon is in control, the last thing everyone expects is to finally hear the truth.

While Jessica learns the reason of her creation, Darthon’s identity is exposed to Eric—and only Eric—and Eric can no longer defend himself. With the eternities of the Light and the Dark resting on Jessica’s shoulders, she must choose who she will be—a light or a shade.

In the end, someone must die, and the end is near.

Death Before Daylight FINALLY releases on September 15, 2015. I know many of you have been waiting for this novel since January, and for that, I apologize, but I am so excited that the last novel (as well as the rest of the trilogy) will be releasing in its entirety this summer and fall!

Book 1, Minutes Before Sunset, releases July 28, and you can win a paperback right now from Clean Teen Publishing via Goodreads. You can also pre-order Minutes Before Sunset via Amazon.

Get excited! Because the Dark is coming.

Stay Dark,

~SAT

P.S. My latest episode on my YouTube channel – Coffee & Cats – released yesterday. We talked about Book Girlfriends.

#MondayBlogs: My Issues With Literature

18 May

Intro:

From 2009 to 2013, I studied English at the University of Kansas, and during that time, I had to decide whether or not my focus would be on literature or on creative writing. I fought with my adviser over this for my first semester. He wanted me to pursue literature; I wanted to hone my writing skills. After I showed him a copy of November Snow, he relented, and I was an English major with a focus on creative writing. Now, that being said, the majority of my classes were still focused on studying different types of literature (instead of writing), and we often talked about the differences between literature and “other writings”, so today’s topic—discussed and written by Eliot Gilbert—hits home for me, and I hope you enjoy his post as much as I do.

My Issues With Literature

There is an elusive mythical status in the world of writing which can only be obtained, seemingly, by bribing (or blackmailing) scholars and booksellers. The status to which I refer is what I like to call capital “L” Literature, and I’m so against the term that I almost sighed by typing it out.

I am sure at least some of you have scratched your head trying to puzzle out the term “Literature”, without much avail. I, personally, am studying English Literature academically, and I still am not entirely sure what means. Its seems peculiar to me to have a distinction between literature and Literature.

Here’s where I think the largest mix-up is: the western literary canon seems to insist that a work should be valued as Literature if it has a superb artistic merit, and if it has significantly contributed to cultural development of the western world. At first that definition seems to be satisfactory, but when put under any amount of scrutiny, it simply does not hold up.

Modifications made under the creative commons license. Photo by Brittany Stevens.

Modifications made under the creative commons license. Photo by Brittany Stevens.

Firstly, the definition seems to imply objectivity. In truth, the decisions are entirely subjective; works of writing are determined Literature by scholars and researchers who have their own interests and methods of interpretation. Put differently, some works are ignored because a scholar has no interest in them, and some works are elevated because they speak personally to the critic.

So, it is impossible to responsibly define Literature as an objective status. This brings up the second largest problem, in my mind: it’s a ridiculous “dog chasing its tail” situation.

Literature is determined based on personal interest of the scholar, and then either accepted into the critical community or rejected, over a span of time, and through further interest by other scholars and researchers. What happens, then, is that certain work gets attention, and then that work is elevated to Literature, and other work is ignored or put down because it doesn’t fit the present definition of Literature. Those who are fellow writers may see a similar situation in getting published without previously being published.

This, in my mind, has caused a host of confusions and issues. The main issue for me is a general dismissal of genre fiction. I like to use The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty as my go-to example. The novel, especially the 40th anniversary edition, is brilliantly paced, highly imaginative, has artistic and disciplined prose, and makes the reader think and discuss rather than spells everything out for her. In addition to this, the novel has had millions of copies sold, and spawned several adaptations, not least of which was the first film adaptation, which became one of the highest grossing films of all time. By anyone’s definition, The Exorcist should be literature, but a quick search on Google Scholar will demonstrate that is simply not the case.

The western canon of literature is extremely genre-biased. Works of science fiction, horror, fantasy, suspense, and YA fiction, are frequently ignored only because there is a preconceived notion about the quality of writing which is altogether unhealthy and false. In my own experience, there is frequently unskilled work that is considered “general fiction”, or even what is considered “contemporary literary fiction”.

As readers and writers, I think we need to broaden our scope of what is considered exceptional writing.

In his book Literary Theory: An Introduction, critic Terry Eagleton asserts that Literature should not be viewed in the standard way I described, but instead, as work that is highly valuable. I believe it is infinitely more useful to view Literature in this way, because it encourages subjectivity.

That is not to say I believe the casual reader is as skilled at literary analysis as a PhD would be, but I do believe that we should stop capitalizing the “L” in Literature; “literature” is, simply put, anything that is written, and every written work deserves an equal scrutiny, regardless of genre or format.

So go out there and create wonderful literature, and read wonderful literature. But please, for the sake of us all, try to avoid the more snobbish, capitalized consonant variety.

author+pictureBio: Eliot Gilbert is an emerging fiction writer, primarily working the in soft fantastic. He is a proprietor of aesthetic approaches to literature, and thinks genre work isn’t given enough attention as a serious medium. His work is appearing in the fall issue of Calliope, the literary magazine of the special interest writing group of the American Mensa. He studies English at York University, in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on his website, on his Twitter, or on his Instagram.

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: Content Disclosures for Novels

16 May

#SATurday: Content Disclosures for Novels

This past Wednesday, my content disclosure tree for Minutes Before Sunset released by Clean Teen Publishing. What is a content disclosure tree? Well, I’ll leave that up to my publisher to define on their website. (Click here to read the definition. Click here to read my full content disclosure tree.) I suggest reading both before continuing, but I’m going to write the article as if the links are broken.

yaclose27

In summary, Clean Teen Publishing allows readers to understand what they’re picking up when they choose a book—which I completely support for numerous reasons, but I will mainly talk about personal experiences, both from working with readers and from traumatic topics I’ve lived through myself, and how these examples have helped me understand the consideration of a content disclosure.

Starting off at my day job, I help authors find readers interested in their work. One of the topics I always discuss with authors is whether or not there is incest, rape, or other controversial topics in the story. Why? Because many of the reviewers I have worked with requested to know this for various reasons. By talking to numerous readers every day, I started to realize how many readers would prefer to know certain things up front—again, for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s triggering for those with PTSD. Sometimes, they are simply disinterested in that scenario. Sometimes, it’s just a preference of how they are feeling that day. While I’m not one to be against any particular topic in a novel, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to read about certain topics, especially involving traumas.

That being said, this sort of disclosure hasn’t happened without controversy. Simply Google “disclosing content in novels” or “content ratings for readers” and I guarantee you’ll find a forum discussing the pros and cons of this. The main arguments I see revolve around ruining surprises and the effectiveness of even preventing someone from reading something they won’t enjoy. And that’s what I want to discuss.

First, as a writer who has written about controversial topics—particularly with violence and language in November Snow and The Timely Death Trilogy, and drug use in Take Me TomorrowI would – by no means – want a reader to pick up one of my works and accidentally be triggered by something. Speaking from personal experience, my mother died from a drug overdose when I was eleven, which is why I wrote Take Me Tomorrow, but through years of counseling, I met many kids like me who reacted very differently than I did. Reading Take Me Tomorrow would be extremely upsetting for them, and knowing what they went through, I would never want to cause them distress about such a personal topic. As a fellow reader, I would also rather find them something else they might like to read.

Granted, I understand the “just put it down” argument, but—at the same time—why can’t we prevent readers from picking up a book they definitely won’t like in the first place? This isn’t about ratings or reviews. This is about caring about your readers’ feelings and time. Now . . . here is where I hear the “but that ruins the surprise” argument . . . which I don’t understand, because—if done correctly—the content disclosure will say the topic, not which character and on which page. Take my full disclosure for example (if you click on this link, it’s at the bottom of the page). Clean Teen Publishing lets us know that Minutes Before Sunset talks about a parent’s suicide. It doesn’t say which one. It doesn’t say how it happens or when it happens. It doesn’t even say how much it is discussed. If anything, I’ve given away SO MUCH more on my website about the topic of suicide in The Timely Death Trilogy and November Snow.

I know I write about controversial – and often violent – topics in my stories, and I, by no means, have an issue with readers knowing that up front, especially because my novels fall under the YA genre, and genres alone don’t warn about the insides. TV and movies have had ratings for a long time, and while I understand that it’s much easier to be surfing channels and accidentally comes across a movie (and a book takes much more time to get into), I think content disclosures can help a large portion of readers find more suitable books that they will enjoy.

Content disclosures can help those that feel like they need it, and those who feel they don’t need content disclosures can ignore them. If you want to be surprised about all the topics, for instance, don’t read the disclosure. It’s as simple as that. At this point, I will say that I don’t think it needs to be an industry standard but rather something that is up to an author and their publisher (and of course, the reader). Personally, I love them. I see too many benefits coming from them for me not to love them. Content disclosures can help those avoiding triggering topics and even help parents choose books for their children that they deem appropriate. Disclosures can help readers find exactly what they’re looking for, maybe even a controversial topic they’ve struggled to find. Everyone who wants them can read them, and everyone who doesn’t want them doesn’t have to use them, but as an author, I’m glad my novels now have one.

~SAT

P.S. On a fun side note, my publisher actually makes these for anyone interested! Click here to check it out.

P.S.S. I reviewed Ex Machina and talked about robots during my latest YouTube video on Coffee & Cats!

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