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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

#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.

#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!

#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

11 May

Intro:

Mental health is an important discussion everyone should be familiar with—and in all aspects of culture. For instance, artists as a whole have developed a reputation of having depression and anxiety, but depression isn’t a prerequisite to being an artist, and both sides need to be understood. Today’s guest blogger discusses this topic in great (and personal) detail, and I’m very excited to have Airian Eastman on today. She writes romance, fantasy, and science fiction, but today, she is writing about depression and art. Let’s welcome her!

#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

For a long time I have struggled with how much self to put into the novel. I have two beautiful dear friends who passed away, a horrible ex-boyfriend, and a mentally unstable high school bff. I have been told I should write them into stories, two as good characters and the others as villains. I have plans for the villains. I think it is very easy to tear someone down but not as easy to build someone else up.

I have also struggled to get bits of my memory into the writing. Either, it comes off as pure filler with none of the heart and soul, or it ends up reading like a journal. How can this be fixed? How do you take all the good and bad memories, thoughts, and emotions and wrap them up in a bow for your characters to discover and deal with? 

10702204_1508493842734688_1648743245336585906_nI found, for me, this was a two-pronged problem, and I could only become a more successful writer if I fixed both problems, but to fix one meant facing another. The first problem was that I cared way too much about what other people thought about me. The second problem was that I had allowed myself to become an overemotional, miserable person.

First, the second problem. I say I was overemotional and miserable, and this was the case. I found myself a part of the mental health system for the best part of two decades, and at the end of the day, I found out what was wrong with me. Absolutely nothing.

“How can that be?”

I failed to listen to the one person who mattered most, and what caused me to listen to her was a painful hell that turned into a sort of purgatory. To rise out of it could only be done (or undone) by my hand. I, myself, was the one person I failed to listen to, and the only person who could get any semblance of a life back for myself.

Sometimes I do wonder what would have been if I had found this path sooner, but I remind myself I am where I am supposed to be on the journey.

I am not saying that everyone in need of mental health and support can be cured easily, or do not need medication or therapy, but I will caution to be wary of misdiagnosing yourself or others. For me though, it was simply listening to what was in my heart and in my head.

I was overly emotional. I was allowing myself to be small. I was forcing myself into a box of my own creation. In the end I was letting myself down. I was pretending to be happy, playing victim and being miserable, lonely, and sad. I believed that no one could understand my plight and that it was somehow more tragic and important than the other 7 billion people on the planet.

Guess what—I’m not.

The only way I was going to fix problem number one; caring what other people thought about me, was to focus on problem number two. How could I be happy? Did I want to be happy? Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? I think that for thirty years I was content being miserable. I was wallowing in the self-pity of my life. I was dealt a raw deal in many circumstances. My life was full of tragic moments, pain, misery, sorrow. As a child, I dealt with life situations that were outside the scope of my understanding, and I did not always have the tools or help needed to rationalize them.

I was not alone. In my own circle of family we shared in experiences. We went through the same situations and came out in different places. My sister seemed cynical and apathetic. My brother seemed angry and at times demanding. Yet we all faced the same fears together. Slightly different perspectives but that should have helped us.

I started to listen to them talk about what they felt and how they saw a situation, and I realized that I was often the selfish brat that was needing attention. I also felt I was worthless because of this behavior. I thought my family only saw me as a brat and nothing else. I figured the whole world looked at me as a negative person, doubted my ability, and outright hated me. My internal self-image was projected outward. It was not how the world viewed me through their eyes, it was how I THOUGHT the world viewed me through my own eyes. I was full of fear and self-loathing. I didn’t know who I was and how could I figure that out with so much negative thought clouding my judgment.

I began to explore the two things hand in hand. I stopped calling myself stupid, bad, bratty, or depressed. I also did not allow people in my life to cut me down either. Friends who want to keep you where you are and “make” you feel bad about yourself are no friends at all. I stopped giving other people all of me and learned to keep more for myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a healthy way.

I started to focus on the happy emotions. The good feelings. I allowed myself to set big goals knowing I could make anything happen if I put my mind to it. I learned to listen to what I was wanting and how to take care of myself. It worked. My writing has improved and I was able to add scenes into my last book that were straight out of my childhood without giving too much away. It still had the heart, but it no longer felt like I was betraying those I cared about. Instead, I was able to enhance small memories in big ways with just enough fiction to bind them together.

Being a writer does not mean you have to have a tragic past. Bad things did not happen to the best writers just so they could write about it. The best writers learned to use the bad things to enhance their writing, and they did it in a way that worked for them. No two writers are the same no matter how we like to compare them. Be yourself, for better or worse, and figure out what your block is. We all have blocks. Some of us have entire walls of blocks that feel like they would be impossible to scale. It isn’t the case. You can discover who you are as a writer by discovering who you are as a person. It will all fall together when you need it most. Don’t let anything hold you back from the story you feel you were meant to tell!

Bio:

Airian Eastman is from Central New York and draws much of her inspiration for her stories from the places she grew up. She writes romance, fantasy and science fiction, with a love of steampunk and old legends retold. Airian has struggled with depression and often talks about that in her writing in an effort to help others. She enjoys spending time with her husband and two cats. For more visit www.airianeastman.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: Authors, Be Yourself

9 May

#SATurday: Authors, Be Yourself

As an author—but also as a marketer—I am constantly stressing the importance of being true to yourself and being true to your work. For instance, it’s a popular question to ask an author how long it took them to write a story. In turn, this has caused millions of debates about how long it should take. The infamous Stephen King, for example, has been quoted saying that writing a first draft shouldn’t take longer than three months, the length of a season. And to that, I say, pish posh. (Respectfully, of course.)

To me, it is ALWAYS more important to be true to the story than to meet a deadline. I mean, George R.R. Martin practically dedicated his life to writing A Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a. Game of Thrones for you HBO fans), and he’s labeled as a serial fantasy genius. His first draft, I doubt, only demanded three months. But he didn’t care. All he cared about was writing it, so he wrote it, and he took as much time as he wanted to write it.

So what does this have to do with you?

Well, I see a lot of authors getting frazzled over writing advice or reading discussions or publishing debates or marketing tips or (insert panic now as I continue listing uncountable reasons for authors to worry). And it isn’t worth it. None of these worries are worth an author’s identity. Be you. That’s my number one rule when I talk to my clients about social media marketing as we create a plan for them. As an example, if you hate Facebook, stay off of it. There’s no reason you should be worrying yourself silly about likes and shares and outreach when you could be on Twitter with your favorites and retweets and hashtags. There’s no reason you should be throwing your precious writing time away for all the millions of things the Internet demands you to do, because—I’ll let you in on a little secret—no one can do it all. No one. So, it’s better to just do what you want to do.

beyou

This doesn’t go to say that this is easy. It’s not. There are many temptations that sneak into our time slots. It’s easy to be on Facebook and see an author who has 10,000 more likes than you and feel like you have to do what they do in order to get to where they are. But we have to stop focusing on getting to “where they are” and start focusing on getting to “where you want to be”. I get it. That can be a little confusing, especially when you “want” to be where they are. Those 10,000 likes look nice after all. But those are THEIR 10,000 likes. Those exact same 10,000 likes are not going to be the 10,000 likes you want for you and your book. You want your own 10,000 likes—likes you achieve by being you. But this is exactly where I see a popular problem arise. Authors are so focused on getting “more” followers that they forget to dedicate time to the followers they already have. The goal is not followers. The goal is being yourself.

That being said, you can definitely have more goals and look up to someone—admire their work ethic, respect their status, learn from them, etc.—but remind yourself that you are going to achieve your own goals your own way, and there’s no need to copy what others are doing. As an example, one author kept sharing exactly what another author with a larger follower was sharing. That’s not going to work. That’s not going to do anything. Why? Here are three reasons:

  1. Someone is already doing it.
  2. You’re trying to be them, not you.
  3. You’re sharing it for the wrong reasons. (For followers, not because you enjoy it.)

You have to be you and do what you want to do. When you do that, you will come through as a unique and wonderful voice, and people who like you will find you. There’s no need to worry or debate or copy or steal or take shots at one another.

Just be you, and everything else will fall into place.

~SAT

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

Are you a writer? As many of you know, I have guest bloggers every Monday. I accept original posts about anything to do with writing and reading. It can be as complicated as in-depth writing tips to as simple as how your favorite series affected your life. You do not have to be published to be a guest blogger. Bios, links, and photos are encouraged. Please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you’re interested.

#MondayBlogs: When Writing is Not All You Do

4 May

Intro:

Back in February of 2013, I wrote a little blog post called Writing Tips: How to Handle Rejection. A huge part of this post was dedicated to John Tompkins. At the time, he wrote a blog called Rejection Love Letters (Or How to Lose Agents and Alienate Publishers). That blog no longer exists, but it was one of my favorites. Why? Because John Tompkins had a fearlessness many crave. He shared his rejection letters from publishers with humor and honesty, and while I think every writer has been rejected, he was open about it, and that is rare. Since then, he has since self-published, and today, he is writing an article for us about another topic many authors can relate to—working and writing, as two separate full-time jobs.

When Writing is Not All You Do

Writing is easy. Getting published is hard. This is especially true for those who work and have families. It’s pretty difficult to advance your writing career when you’re alternating your time between a job, washing dishes after dinner, bathing your child and helping with laundry.

A writer recently posted an item on Salon claiming that authors who do nothing but write, thanks to financial security, shouldn’t be judged because they have the luxury to live all writing all the time.

cover 2One encouraging thing the writer did say, however, is that those who are privileged should disclose that and not pretend that they had to fight through the clutter on Amazon or through the slush pile with a publisher to get noticed. Many of them have connections in the publishing industry and quite simply don’t know what it’s like to struggle. The Salon writer offered two examples of successful writers. One is due to inherit a sizable fortune and has time to do nothing but write. The other is a young woman who was the only child of a couple heavily involved in the New York literary scene. Her being published was foregone the moment she was born.

I’m a married father of one with another one due in June. I also work full time, mostly writing at night while my wife’s asleep or during King of Queens reruns. Have to fit it in somewhere.

I’ve written now, three books (ok two books and one novella) all of which have been rejected (I’ve got more than 100 reject letters). Most of the letters I made fun of by posting to a now defunct blog. Reading the rejections, I noticed that they all pretty much sounded the same. “Sorry, you’re good, but you’re not spectacular.” I gave up with agents and publishers and decided, after having two PhD’s edit my book, to just put it out there.

I posted it to Amazon about a month ago. Hopefully it will make it through all of the clutter but I guess we’ll see. I’m doing my best to market it and I’m also struggling to find reviewers.

I think my problem with the publishing industry is mostly the second example. Too many people who are talented with something valuable to say are ignored by publishers because they didn’t grow up in the Northeast or have connections from graduate school. So they’re ignored. It’s a disservice to readers and the art in general. I said as much in a comment to the Salon story.

It shouldn’t anger me so much to hear authors who start off wealthy and have nothing to do but write. But it does and it is easy to get discouraged.

There are the handful of success stories, notably E.L. James and a series of books you may have heard of, Fifty Shades of Grey. She self-published her novels originally as e-books. You know the rest of the story. One of the tidbits I enjoy about her success is when the director was making the ending to the recently released movie, James ordered him to make the ending she wanted. That’s control that most authors never get because so few have subsidiary rights. (Further ironic because the whole story is about personal control and giving it up.) This all being said, James was a television executive when she was writing Fifty Shades. But unlike other privileged writers, she released her works as any other independent author. Her books actually started out as fan fiction of the Twilight series.

This is about the only thing I think that keeps me going. When I’m sitting in my bed at 12 a.m. trying to hit my daily 1,500-word quota on number four, I can only dream about the day when I can type at a desk during the day. I will probably still have King of Queens on in the background though.

Bio:

John Tompkins is a writer living in Texas. He is a former newspaper reporter specializing in court coverage, education and government. He is now working as a communications coordinator at local college.

Book & Blog

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

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