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Writing Tips: Dealing with Controversy

17 Apr

I live in Kansas City, and right now, if you watch the news, I’m sure you’ve heard of the recent tragedies that have happened here. I drive on the highways where the “Highway Shooter” is every day, and I live less than one mile away from the Jewish Community Center where three people died. In fact, I heard the sirens from my living room when it happened, and one of the victims went to Blue Valley High School, the same school I graduated from in 2009. But this isn’t about me. It’s about the effect it has on the Kansas City community.

I am reminded of how quickly a community can change, how the feeling of safety is a fleeting comfort, and how important it is to come together during this time. But I wanted to discuss an aspect of a writer’s life that these instances reminded me of that I’m sure many writers struggle with:

When we’re writing about sensitive issues, and they occur in real life – and occasionally, right down the street – we question ourselves.

I went through this when I wrote “Sean’s Bullet.” My military fiction story that was published in 2013: A Stellar Collection is fiction, but it deals with real-life issues, including friendly fire and PTSD. My recently published YA novel, Seconds Before Sunrise, deals with underage drinking and reckless driving. During this past week, I am going through some of the same thoughts I had when I was writing these stories.

Am I being true to the story? Am I not being sensitive to the victims? Am I portraying this respectfully and honestly? Am I over-thinking this? 

These thoughts run rampant through an author’s mind when they are facing a story with controversial events, but the answers are harder to find when the events are right outside your window.

My current manuscript – which I have yet to reveal – has a few instances where guns are used. Being a Kansas City resident during a time where we’ve had recent shootings and murders, creates a sensitivity to these things. I am a fantasy writer, but things that happen in fantasy can still happen in reality, and when that happens, it causes this pause – this hesitation that seemingly stops everything. For me, this pause is caused by guilt.

I feel guilty for having scenes that have affected real people. I want to find another way to entertain people in my stories. I break away from my story and question whether it’s right or not. But, eventually, I have to accept the fact that my story is fiction, that my scenes with violence or pain are not creating what occasionally happens in reality – near or far – and that I am doing my best to be a respectable artist.

So what can writers do when they face this issue?

I can’t tell every writer how to approach this. There is actually a lot of debate as to how to handle many controversial subjects in fiction, but I am not going to talk about what I consider appropriate because that’s my opinion. Instead, I’m giving advice.

1. Step away from your manuscript – when there’s an event that shifts your emotions about a piece, take a day and forget it. Then, return and think about it carefully. Is this event directly related to your work or is it just similar?

2. Cope with your emotions – This can include many types of coping. For instance, you can cope with a real-life event and then cope with an event in your fiction. You might realize they aren’t similar at all, and your thoughts will help you realize if your opinions have changed (or even if your characters’ opinions have shifted.)

3. Consider the actual event carefully – what makes it controversial? Who is affected by it? Have you personally dealt with it? Have you researched those who are affected by it?

4. Be willing to change but also be willing to keep it the same – sometimes bad things happen. Just because it’s in fiction doesn’t mean that it is directly related to something real. But if your opinions change, you might have to find a new way to go about a scene, and both are perfectly okay.

These things are very difficult to discuss. Even writing this blog post was challenging because these moments are very emotional, and we all react in our own way, but – in the end – we want to be respectful while pursuing our art in a passionate way. Every experience in our lives results in a lesson, good or bad, and it creates who we are. Personally, I have used my mother’s death as inspiration. Does that make me a bad person? No. It allowed me to cope in a creative way. That is me. I shouldn’t feel ashamed of it. But – at the same time – I strive to use that experience in a respectful manner. That’s all I can do.

I can either hide behind my guilt or I can embrace my emotions and pursue my art.

There are limits, but they are self-imposed, and every artist must decide what is appropriate for them and their audience. It is a responsibility of an artist, and it is one to be considered carefully.

I discussed this today with a heavy heart, but I wanted to open a safe place to talk about this, because I know many artists who struggle with the same emotions. If you’ve had an instance where you have dealt with this, feel free to discuss below.

~SAT

My First Podcast Interview

9 Apr

Update: Here is the podcast

The press release for Seconds Before Sunrise released, and Ky Grabowski was kind enough to share it on her blog. Check it out by clicking here.

Originally, I was going to post another YouTube video introducing this, but Weebo (my laptop) was not cooperating with me, and I lost the main part of the video. She must be as exhausted as I was, so I am sorry, but please listen to Ryan’s podcast, The Lurking Voice. Our interview goes up on April 10th. We talk about a lot, including my novels, what it has been like to be an author as well as the C.O.O. of a publisher, and my personal life. I’ve even included a small list below of some of the questions I answered. The Lurking Voice has been on my list of favorite podcasts since it started, so this was an experience I was looking forward to for a long time, and for great reason! I had a wonderful time, and I think you will, too. Ryan is hilarious and to the point. I am still looking for my April guest blogger, so if you let me know what your favorite part was as well as what you would like to blog about, you could win the slot! 

Here are some of the topics we discussed:

What did you do for your marketing and website in order to get as many fans as you did?

How different was publishing in 2007 than it is today in 2014?

How does November Snow compare to Minutes Before Sunset in The Timely Death Trilogy?

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 2.20.05 PMWhat was it like growing up in different environments? How does it affect who you are?

Are you an adventurer? If you had to pick one place to travel, where would you go?

How did the loss of your mother and roommate affect your writing and your career?

What’s your style in poetry? Do you plan on publishing any poetry collections?

What was your main influence as a child? What teachers influenced you?

Where are my gremlins? (haha. Seriously, this is why you need to listen to it.)

How did you start off writing? What were your first writings like? Was November Snow your first piece of writing?

Publishing as young as you did, how did the editing go? How was the writing?

How did you celebrate graduating college?

My favorite quote? 

“I can kill small animals and children…in books. In books, people.” – Ryan Attard

But be warned.

Tentacles are featured.

Click here to visit his website. Click here to visit the podcast page. 

~SAT

How Desk Trinkets Can Inspire You

7 Apr

I added a YouTube page to this website, so you can catch up here as well as on YouTube. I am expecting to upload my next video soon, but I’ll always make an announcement. If you subscribe to my channel – Coffee and Cats – you can watch all of my videos one day early.

I know. I know. A desk can be a clattered mess, a scattered collection of book remains, an abyss of wonderment, the aftermath of a chaotic genius. Chances are your desk is already filled with pens, photographs, and paperwork. The last thing you need is more trinkets. Right?

Wrong. Every time I think this, I am wrong.

I love trinkets. I love trinkets too much. I do not think my love for trinkets will ever stop. And today I am sharing a few of mine that I haven’t shared before because they help me during my every day stresses and excitement. In other words, the little things remind me of the important stuff – the feelings that make me work harder and smile longer – and I hope you might consider adding a positive reminder to your desk and/or share the ones you already have.

My Tiger’s Eye Statue and Stone:

Fun fact: I’m obsessed with meanings behind things. Whether it is the meaning of a name or the meaning of a certain type of flower, I could spend hours reading about how certain labels came about. Tiger’s Eye is my favorite stone. They are beautiful, but they are also associated with protection and clarity. Below, you’ll see two Tiger’s Eyes that I keep on my desk. One is a stone I was gifted, and the other one is a statue of a coyote that a very kind woman carved for me after my husky passed away in 2007. These stones remind me of many things, such as my love for my dog, Shadow, but they mainly remind me of the clarity I believe in that I am doing the right thing by following my dream as well as the protection I receive from all of my loved ones, passed on and still alive.

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Willow Tree Statues:

Obviously, I have a thing for statues, but Willow Tree (Demdaco) is one of my favorite companies. These are two gifts I received which both happen to be by Willow Tree. The one on the left is known as the Mother and Daughter. I received this from my aunt right after my mother passed away. I have my mother’s bracelet draped around the statue, because I used to wear it every day until the clasp broke. I considered fixing it, but I almost lost it, so I decided to keep it on my desk instead. The one on the right is the Love of Learning. This was given to me as a birthday gift from a great friend who is actually in the acknowledgements of Minutes Before Sunset. She’s always been so supportive of my novels. In a way, both of these statues remind me of the loved ones in my life that support my dream as well as all of the love that surrounds me.

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Maneki Neko

And my latest one that I received yesterday from my aunt. As many of you know, I really want to travel to Japan one day. She was just over there, so she brought me back a Maneki Neko, a.k.a. Fortune Cat, Lucky Cat, etc. You can read more about it from this article: 5 Interesting Facts About Fortune Cats, but I am sure it will fit right next to my “All You Need is Love…And a Cat” paperweight.

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So do you have any trinkets that inspire you? How do they inspire you? Do you think trinkets can help you throughout the day? Do you think they can hold good luck or good fortune? Be sure to share your thoughts and stories below! You never know. Your good luck trinket might help you get picked out to be April’s guest blogger.

~SAT

Website Wonders

1 Apr

Welcome to April! Before I share those websites for writers, readers, and dreamers that I have collected in the last two months, I have two wonderful bits of new to share with you all.

Tranquil Dreams reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, but they also reviewed The City of Worms by Roy Huff, so you can check out two novels at once. “This novel sets the stage for the battle of Light and Dark and honestly, for the first time in my life, I’m behind the Dark.  I look forward to reading the next one a lot.” Find out why Tranquil Dreams said, “I totally recommend this one!” by clicking here

After checking that out, swing by my latest interview by clicking here. Mental Cheesecake asked me if I would prefer the powers of the Light or the Dark, what inspired the covers of The Timely Death Trilogy, and if I like Jace or Simon more in The Mortal Instruments.

Now – the website wonders: 

I wasn’t able to do this in February, so I’m including both February’s and March’s here. Below, the websites are organized by categories, including Great Reads, Business Help for Writers, Art Related to Books, Book-to-Movie Trailers, and Inspiration. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Great Reads:

14 year-old’s clever poem knocks Twitter backwards: I love this. Not only is it a great poem, but it’s relevant to today’s culture. It also shows off the great abilities of this young poet.

This Comic About Love Will Touch Your Heart: I thought this comic was a cute read. It sparked some debate among readers due to the subject matter of a breakup and a new relationship, but I think – if read for simple entertainment (which is what I think it was designed for) – it’s cute, sweet, and fun.

40 Freaking Creepy Ass Two Sentence Stories: I love horror. (American Horror Story is practically the only show I watch.) And these short stories gave me chills! You’ve been warned.

Business Help for Writers:

Amazon’s history should teach us to beware ‘friendly’ internet giants: As much as I love Amazon, I am afraid of any company gaining from a monopolized market. This article deals with the warnings of how this might be a future possibility and how we can prevent it.

8 Ways to be a Better Facebook Page Admin: This is great advice for anyone struggling with their business Facebook page. I used it, and my Facebook Page has been my number two referrer to my website (after search engines) for two months in a row.

A Facebook Change Authors Need to Know About: Again, this article is amazing. It will help enhance your views on your Facebook page.

Inside Amtrak’s (Absolutely Awesome) Plan to Give Free Rides to Writers: Amtrak called for writers to submit to this program, and I turned in my application a few days ago! It would be an unbelievable dream come true for them to pick me, but I hope the writers they pick enjoy it for all of us! I can’t wait to read what others write, even if I’m not chosen to travel in their program.

 Nine Writers And Publicists Tell All About Readings And Book Tours: I loved this because it shows the realities of what goes on behind the scenes, even for the most popular writers. A few years ago, I think it would be taboo for authors to share their true emotions about their dream profession, but it’s nice to see the acceptability of speaking truthfully about an author’s life.

Wait. A first person narrative isn’t serious???: By Nathan Bransford, I actually wrote a response to this article on my blog called It’s All About Perspective…Or Is It?. I loved what Bransford had to say about this narrative style because he proves how serious it can be, and I think it ultimately shows how much the industry is changing.

Art Related to Books:

Design Stack: Paper Jewelry: I thought these were beautiful, and they also made me wonder what my novel would be carved into. I would like to believe a tree necklace or a yin-yang symbol.

23 Epic Literary Love Tattoos: One of my favorite poems is in this collection of literary tattoos. I don’t have any tattoos, but I like looking at them. I find them to be quite inspirational.

Mind-Blowing LEGO Recreation of LOTR’s Helm’s Deep Battle: I grew up with LEGOS. I was crazy about LEGOS. My brother was worse than me. It wasn’t rare for one of my parents to step on our array of LEGOS. (We even had a LEGO camera) So I loved this LEGO town designed around Lord of the Rings.

Book-to-Movie Trailers:

The Giver Trailer: Meryl Streep Vs. Taylor Swift: I was so looking forward to The Giver movie adaptation (which I mentioned in my blog post 2014 Books to Movies, but this doesn’t even look close. Not even a little bit. Flying space ships? Oh, the nervous feelings I have. My heart might break for one of my favorite novels this August.

The Maze Runner (Official Trailer): Unlike The Giver, I am looking forward to this adaptation now that I’ve seen the trailer. It looks awesome.

Inspiration:

25 Romantic Words That Don’t Exist in English But Should: I find untranslatable words to be beautifully mysterious – like the gorgeous stranger you wish you had talked to that one night. (There’s probably a word in this list for that.)

24 Most Terrifying and Haunted Places You’d Never Want To Be In: Like I said, I’m a horror fan. This sort of stuff gets my heart going, and my heart gets my inspiration going.

Mugshots of Poets: I found this to be inspirational because it shows – again – the realities of some of the most famous writers of all time. Jack Kerouac is definitely in this list. (He’s one of my favorite authors of all time.)

Children Read To Shelter Cats To Soothe Them: I love cats. I love reading. This was amazing.

Again, I hope you enjoyed these as much as I did! I apologize for not sharing them in February, too, but I will share more. I always share these on my author Facebook page, so join me there. I can’t wait until my next blog post! I have exciting news coming. April is going to be an adventure.

~SAT

The After Party

28 Mar

Yesterday was my official release date of Seconds Before Sunrise (now available on Amazon.) The virtual party was a great time – and if you weren’t there, we enjoyed a collection of shades, including 6 guards, 4 elders, 3 warriors, 1 student and 1 descendant during the What’s Your Shade Name? game. Eric even got a little dressed up:

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So, today is just about you guys and how wonderful you all are. Special thanks goes out to everyone who came to the celebration – all 338 of you – and I have a group of fantastic reviewers and interviewers that I want to thank below:

First, I must thank Dan Thompson for my latest interview. His questions were thought-provoking and engaged in ideas I haven’t had to answer during a review before. Learn if I believe in the paranormal and fate while reading about one of my recently revealed secrets by clicking here

After that, Jess and Sarah at The Mental Cheesecake held a meeting about Minutes Before Sunset, and they talked about how “many authors neglect to include the thoughts of characters in such a realistic and entertaining fashion. It’s exactly how our brains work while in conversation. We’re very rarely just listening: we watch their body language, judge what they’re saying, think things we would never say and debate over what to have for lunch at the same time.” Find out what they thought about the teens in The Timely Death Trilogy by clicking here. (You might also find out who was intimidated and why.)

Breathe Wild Flower also reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, stating “all I can say is that I enjoyed reading this book so incredibly much.” (But, really, she said a lot more than that, so check it out by clicking here.)

While this was happening, Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise made it onto the bookshelves at Fluente Designs Unique BoutiqueIf you like jewelry, purses, and other goods, check them out, too!

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So if you’re wondering about what bloggers are thinking about Seconds Before Sunrise, I have two more reviews! Remember how I shared a father’s review during my last blog post? His daughter reviewed it, too! And you can now read why she said, Seconds Before Sunrise has it all: Comedy; romance; action. You name it, this story is the real deal.” by clicking hereHer blog, Just a Third Cultured Kid, is definitely with the follow.

The Modest Verge also reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, stating, “I wasn’t sure what would happen next. It was exciting. Both books full of moments like that.” Read the full review by clicking here.

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I hope you enjoy both books as much as these lovely reviewers did! Today, I’m shipping off paperbacks to the lucky winners. The future feels as great as the party was fun. I look forward to the next one, and I cannot wait to speak with you all live again. Moments like these are beyond exhilarating. They are encouraging, lovely, thoughtful, and fun!

So, thank you to all of the readers, writers, and dreamers who continue to support one another as we live our dreams. Thank you. 

~SAT

If you are interested in previewing my novels, click on these links to “Look Inside”

Minutes Before Sunset (book 1) & Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2)

My Home Away From Home

16 Mar

Before I get into today’s post, I wanted to share four announcements.

Seconds Before Sunrise is officially on Amazon. It just went up yesterday! The cover and “Look Inside” will be uploaded soon, but you can still order it today. I truly appreciate your support! Click below.

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Fantasy is more Fun also had me over as a guest author for Free Book Friday. The cool part? I explain what free books mean to me as a writer and reader. On top of that, I’ve done two interviews this week.

The Urge to Write wanted to know what the covers of The Timely Death Trilogy represented, and I explained the designs for both of them. I also talked about Death Before Daylight (book 3) and included a preview of Seconds Before Sunrise. After that Writing Under Fire wondered if I wrote in other genres or if I see patterns in my work. Check both of them out by clicking the links.

On a day-to-day basis, I open hundreds of emails from you guys, and I love speaking with everyone. So when I received an email from the Community Coordinator for DogVacay.com, I was more than excited when they asked me write about “My Home Away From Home.”

  1. I love animals. I grew up with three huskies and now I have a cat. Since their company is helping animals, I was more than happy to take part.
  2. I am very grateful when readers ask me to blog about a certain topic that is important to them. (That being said, if you have an idea that you want me to blog about, send me an email to shannonathompson@aol.com for consideration. Your website will also be credited)

So, naturally, I said yes.

And I said “yes” before I actually thought about my answer. This is where I ran into a slight problem. When I realized my answer, I knew it might make some readers uncomfortable to the point where – for a minute – I considered choosing a more socially acceptable “home away from home.” But I can’t do that. I must be honest by being myself, especially in such a personal post, so I will be.

My home away from home is a cemetery.

That’s right. A cemetery.

Before you think you’re in a Tim Burton film, let me explain:

Cemeteries aren’t these dreary places filled with rotting trees and crumbling statues. (Not normally anyway.) The one I go to is always clean, well attended to and quite beautiful really. With spring coming in, the grass is green and the trees are growing again. My favorite tree is only a few yards away from where I sit to write, think, or read, and the lake is close enough to watch the geese on a nice day. Everything is surrounded by a small but distant neighborhood, causing the eight fields to feel more like a fake-flowered park than a place where people fear the dead. In fact, I often watch joggers while I sit in my spot – a spot right next to my mom.

20130704_160525Today is actually the eleventh anniversary of my mother’s death, but I’ve tried to stop counting the days she’s been gone by replacing the thoughts with memories of her life. I do that by visiting her at the cemetery, and I’ve been doing it for many years now.

Even though my mother died when I was eleven, it didn’t hit me until August of 2008. I can actually remember the exact day, one of the worse moments that eventually became one of my strongest moments.

I’m unsure why it took me seven years, but I think graduating high school had a lot to do with it. Big events. Big moments that you wish your loved one could see. So my seventeen-year-old self started going there on a regular basis – during the early morning or too late at night. I even kept a quail-decorated quilt in my trunk that I would pull out, spread out, and lay out on – just to look at the sky. My favorite nights were the clear nights where I crawled onto the hood of my Bravada and stared at the stars, talked to myself, or just listened to the silence.

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All of these pictures were taken there.

In that one field, I’ve cried, screamed, and questioned everything. But I’ve also smiled, laughed, and found myself again. All of my journals have been to that place, and most of my novels have a few scenes written from that place. I actually wrote there the other day, and I’ve spoken to the caretaker so many times that I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in one of my novels (subconsciously, of course.) I’ve witnessed other burials, met other mourners, and realized that someone else had replaced my mother’s flowers when I couldn’t. There, I am often reminded of life and death, but I also feel the reminder of love – that love, in many ways, is immortal. That immortal love is what home feels like to me.

To this day, the cemetery is my most peaceful place – and although I don’t go as much as I used to, I still make it a point to go, especially during this time of the year. In fact, I just went there a week ago.  I may not be able to visit for the rest of my life, but I believe it will always be my calm place, my place where I can go outside and reconnect with the world, my place where I am reminded of what is important – my home away from home.

~SAT

Help: I’ve Returned to an Old Piece of Writing, and I Can See Influences From My Past

20 Feb

Recently, I have truly enjoyed writing up my personal posts instead of focusing on writing or publishing tips. Sharing my story opened up a channel for me to hear your stories, and it was really nice getting to know more of you on a deeper level. If I continue this in the future, I hope to hear more from others. If you have an idea of a topic – any topic really – you can always comment below and suggest one. I will even credit your blog as the inspiration for the post. No matter what, thank you for reading and commenting. 

Today, though, I wanted to talk about a topic that is very much a personal twist on the writing spectrum. Yes, writing is always personal to the writer, but I wanted to discuss how certain writings can be influenced by a particular time in your life and/or how it can affect the writing process when you return to it later. The reason for this is simple: I’m currently going through it, and I wanted to talk about it in the hopes of reaching out to other artists who have experienced the same range of emotions I have,which include confusion, guilt, acceptance, and understanding.

If you follow my interviews, then you know I am already planning for which one of my novels will be published after Seconds Before Sunrise. (But I hope you’ll take a moment to check out Seconds Before Sunrise by clicking here.) Although readers might be expecting Death Before Daylight, I am moving towards publishing a new novel altogether before the last book of the trilogy. From this point on, I will be referring to this new novel as TMT.

When I went back to edit TMT, I found some surprises I wasn’t expecting:

There are some heavy influences that I could not see before. When I was originally writing it, I was in my freshman year of college. At the time, I could not see any correlations with my life in my science-fiction world. Now that I’ve been removed from the novel for a few years, I can interpret it more clearly. I can see old acquaintances in the characters. I can hear dialogue that sounds like a stranger I met. I can see where I mixed a scene together by blending a field by my dorm room and a forest by my old house. I can see my husky, Shadow, in the dog the protagonist cherishes.

This is Shadow - my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as me.

This is Shadow – my buddy. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, but he loved snow just as much as I do. (Probably more, of course.)

This was all unexpected, and – if I may be bold – difficult in many areas, because it brings up a lot of old memories I have since let go in one way or another. I believe this is a struggle many artists may face at one time or another. When we write in present time, we might not realize we have placed our friend in a novel as a protagonist’s cousin. Years later, after we’ve had a falling out with that friend, it is a struggle to return to the novel’s mindset where you must love that “cousin” you can now see was someone very real and dear to you but no longer is.

But it’s okay. There are many ways to accept these moments. They aren’t all bad. In fact, I would say most of it isn’t bad. As my posts normally go, I repetitively say, “It’s all about attitude.”

When you return to these older works, hoping to make them better, you can accept where the influences come from for what they are. Just accept them, and dive into it with the same passion you have today. Eventually, I have noticed that I am adding more influence from my current life into TMT, instead of letting my past life define it. It’s an interesting area to explore, because it’s the blending of me – my past, my present, and my future – and it brings a sense of serene acceptance.

Here are three thoughts that helped me through this:

A. Be prepared to feel this way. There’s nothing to be guilty or ashamed or feel any weirdness about. It’s natural. Think of it this way, it would be impossible to go sit in your high school parking lot without remembering a few times you were there. Art can be the same way. If you wrote it five years ago, don’t be surprised if memories from five years ago sneak up. It’s okay. Enjoy it, and change it if you want to.

B. You’re an artist – it’s bound to happen. You are inspired by life, after all.

C. If you are disturbed or upset, that’s okay, too. Put the writing down. Try not to be hard on yourself about it. The past isn’t always a place people are comfortable with. Write something new!

I actually asked about this topic on my Facebook Author Page, “Have you ever associated your novel (or a book that your have read) with a certain time in your life? If so, when you go back to edit it and/or reread it, have you seen influences you didn’t see before? Is this easy or difficult to comprehend and how do you think it affects the writing and/or reading process?”

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Join me on FB, and your responses might be used next!

Here are two fantastic answers,

The J. Aurel Guay Archive: “I wrote half a novel during a very transitional time of life. I set it down for several years and when I came back to it, I couldn’t find the motivation to finish it because I had progressed through that stage. I will finish it eventually, but it will change fundamentally as they open questions on which the novel turns have been answered in my life. I just can’t write it from the same frame of reference anymore. You can find a snippet here.”

Tanya Taimanglo: “My romantic comedy, Secret Shopper was cathartic for me. It resembles so much of my life, although I insist it’s fiction. (It is). The death of my father, elements of a bad break up and finding real love made its way onto the page. It was written years ago, and when I do reread it, I cringe at how much truth I allowed out there and I’m reminded of how much growth I’ve made. In some ways, it’s like a journal I’ve made public. I can’t undo it, just embrace its truth and move on.”

What about you? Have you ever returned to a writing and saw past influences you didn’t see at the time of writing it? How did you cope with it?

~SAT

My Insecurities and How I Overcame Them

18 Feb

Before I start I have one article I would like everyone who plays Candy Crush Saga to consider. As many of you know I wrote, Why You Should Boycott King and Candy Crush Saga, less than a month ago, and now I have another reason to encourage it. Please read this: CandySwipe Open Letter to King regarding trademark. We cannot sit back and allow corporations to take over the little guy in any field, especially artistic ones. Thank you for taking a minute out of your day.

After my previous post about my mother’s death affecting my feelings about graduation, I received many heartfelt messages here and in my email. I cannot express how much I appreciate your encouragement and how you took a minute to share your personal story in order to help me. I am always blown away by how lovely everyone is. Thank you.

You are the single reason I decided I had to write this post today. 

Everyone has insecurities. It happens. It’s natural. We’re human, after all. And we live in a world that is often setting up expectations full of judgement. I am no different than anyone else. I have had my list of insecurities. I don’t normally do this, and I probably won’t do it again for a long time, but I thought I would share some facts about myself that I used to struggle with that I haven’t shared before. Again, this is in the hopes of helping others embrace themselves, especially those parts of you that you cannot change. 

1. My handwriting is horrible – seriously horrible. 

I was originally left-handed, but I now write with my right hand. Before this switch, my handwriting was normal. Now, I can’t even read it sometimes. I often get told I “write like a boy” – which, in itself, I now think is wrong.

But what’s the reason? When I was eleven, I was showing someone how to shoot a basketball in my morning gym class. That’s when I tripped, and my hand slammed into the floor. At the time, I didn’t know it, but I had broken my growth plate. When I told the school nurse I was hurt, they sent me back to class because they thought I was trying to skip a math test. I didn’t go to the hospital until nine that evening. Consequensly, I did permanent damage, and my right arm is now significantly longer than my left arm. Instead of handwriting, I definitely type everything up. But I’m not mad about the situation. The nurse was doing her job, and things happen. Mistakes happen. I embrace it. I learned how to write with my right hand, I use black, G-2 pens to cheer myself up (because those pens are lovely) and I often show off my shorter arm as a party joke. When it hurts, (because it often hurts), I remind myself that I can always exercise it to make it stronger. I also remind myself that there are people who don’t have hands at all. I am lucky that I can still type with it, that I still have it, and knowing how lucky I am has allowed me to stay positive about physical therapy with my hand and overall arm strength.

2. I have bad depth perception.

This is me, and I love being me.

This is me, and I love being me. I also love putting my hair on top of my head like a bird nest.

Believe it or not, my eyes are totally different sizes. It’s true, and before you think this is normal, it is significant (although most cannot tell until I point it out.) I actually have depth perception problems from it, which I was diagnosed with my freshman year in college. They have to test my eyes every time I get a driver’s license renewed. Perhaps this is why I’m so clumsy. (I hit everything.) But I can laugh at myself. Learning to laugh at myself is pretty easy and quite enjoyable. I cannot change the size of my eyes or how I physically see the world, but I can change how I mentally see the world. I can have a positive attitude about the world.

3. I talk funny. (I say “funny” because it often makes people laugh.) 

I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. By the time I was fifteen, I had also lived in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Georgia, Kansas, and Missouri. This has caused some confusion in my speech patterns and idioms, often causing me to stutter. I have a lot of things backwards, and my accents come out together – at the same time, I can sound like a southern belle that once lived in Canada (mainly because my father lived in Canada, and I’ve picked up his phrases as well as the ones I received from Green Bay, Wisconsin.) Saying “turn on the garburator” at a party isn’t understood at an American house-warming party, but I sure love explaining it. Those moments that I have to take time to explain what I am saying have now become moments that allow me to explain my background and how it has shaped me into the individual that I am today. And I love who I am today, stuttering or not.

4. My eyebrows are REALLY far apart

I’ve even had someone email me this statement before, like they thought they were helping me from over tweezing. Believe it or not, I was born that way, and I know my left eyebrow sits halfway over my eye. I got the look from my grandfather, and you know what? My grandfather was a pretty awesome person. So good for my spaced out eyebrows. They show off my family history. They show off the genes that also make me who I am. They remind me of family.

5. I am really pale, and I don’t tan…or burn.

I swear. I went to Puerto Rico, barely used sunscreen, and nothing happened. I just don’t’ react – although I can admit that I got extremely burned once in my life. (And that was not fun!) When I was a teenager, I hated how pale I was because it was “cool” to be tan, and everyone thought I stayed inside all of the time. (Which I do now.) But you know what? I like my skin. I like how pale I am because it is me. I don’t care if I glow under black lights. I like who I am, and – again – it’s my Welsh roots. It’s also something I share with my late mother (as well as my crazy, curly hair that I used to hide because straight hair was “cool.”) I should be proud, and I am. Just for clarification reasons, because I do not want this to be taken the wrong way: I have nothing against being tan or any other color for that matter. This is simply me embracing who I am. I am not, in any way, trying to encourage others to be pale like me. Physical appearances do not matter, and that is the ultimate point. 

Now that I shared a few of my previous insecurities, I wanted to add one thing:

I am genuinely a happy person, but there are days that I regress, and that’s okay. I look at insecurities the same way. Even after overcoming them, you might have an insecure moment or two or hundreds over a lifetime, but that’s okay. Just try to remember what’s really important – and that’s what’s on the INSIDE and what resides in your ACTIONS. 

I could can cry about my eyebrows or I can learn how to make them do the wave and laugh at my goofy expressions. I can complain about my injuries like my left hand, but I can also remember that I have other parts of my body that work just fine that others might not even have. A doctor can give me plastic surgery on my body, but only I can change my mind and my heart. And your mind and your heart will guide you, aid you, and embrace you.

No matter what, you can love yourself, and love overcomes everything else.

P.S. I’m still accepting reviewers of Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy.) If you’re interested in reading my novels, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I would love to hear from you. The first one is also on sale for only $3.89, and I would be more than happy to hear your thoughts.

~SAT

Click here because it’s fun to click on things. Isn’t it?

Click here because it’s fun to click on things. Isn’t it?

How Anxiety Influenced my Trilogy

14 Jan

AskDavid.com is featuring Minutes Before Sunset right now. Check out the exclusive description here, and please share! It would really help me out. Thank you.

As promised in my last post – Photography and Writing – today is dedicated to explaining why the photo below is symbolic to my writing life and why I used it to represent my upcoming novel, Seconds Before Sunrise. Hopefully by sharing my story about turning anxiety into art, it will help inspire you to share yours.

What does this have to do with Seconds Before Sunrise?

What does this have to do with Seconds Before Sunrise?

There’s something you should know about me before I start.

In my 22 years of life, I’ve been in six car wrecks. Now, before you judge my driving record, I was only driving in two of them, one was caused by black ice on a bridge and my most recent one happened when I was hit by a drunk driver, which I actually wrote about here.

But the point isn’t about my driving record – it’s actually about what happened afterward. In my first car wreck, I was not driving. The passengers asked the driver to slow down, but he didn’t, and we hit a tree at 80 miles per hour. Now, I want to clarify that I have nothing against this driver, and he’s a good person, so please do not comment on him. I shared those details because, shortly afterward, I developed a high anxiety for anyone else driving me. When I say “high” anxiety, I mean hyperventilation and shaking among other uncontrollable functions, but I was fine as long as I was driving myself…until I was driving back to college in February of 2010. My non-four-wheel-drive, rear-wheel truck did not fair too well on a bridge covered with black ice. I lost control and crashed into a van at 45. I wasn’t injured, but six other cars wrecked while they were cleaning up my car wreck, including one instance where a firefighter almost got pinned against my car.

It was scary – terrifying, really – and after that, I couldn’t feel good behind ANY wheel, especially if it was snowing, icy, raining, or even dark. My body associated bad events with vehicles, but I couldn’t avoid vehicles. The Midwest, as well as most of the places in the United States aside from large cities, is not friendly to transportation via bicycle. (And before you mention buses, those counted as vehicles in my anxiety.)

After four car wrecks, my anxiety was so bad at one point that I almost refused to leave the house in the fear that I would get in another one. While many people get in car wrecks and walk away without a worry (except what to do with a car), I had to be honest with myself: I wasn’t one of those people. I got help, and after a number of months of therapy, my anxiety slowly went down. Now, I can be proud when I drive through downtown KC without so much as a racing heart or lack of breath.

Now, the books – (thanks for staying with me)

The Timely Death Trilogy has more than one car wreck in it, although only one is seen in a flashback in Minutes Before Sunset, while another one from the past is seen through a newspaper article. There’s a reason for this.

You know you want to add it on Goodreads. Click here!

You know you want to add it on Goodreads. Click here!

When writing these books, I had recently experienced my first car wreck that I mentioned previously. I was 15, and I was injured for a while afterward, so the memory was lingering in my physical pain. Because of that, I decided I wanted cars to be a symbol in this trilogy – something that would describe the characters as well as affect the characters’ lives – and you can expect the peak of the symbolism of the car to happen in the next installment of the series, Seconds Before Sunrise

The photo itself is important to book two. If you want some truth, this photo could be a direct viewpoint from Eric Welborn, but if you want the full truth, you’ll have to check out Seconds Before Sunrise (and catch up on Minutes Before Sunset.)

In the end, there are two purposes to this piece:

1. Because I think it’s more important to help people – know it’s okay if you development anxiety and/or depression from a traumatic event, even if others do not label it as traumatic. Just because it didn’t hurt them, does not mean it shouldn’t have hurt you. It’s okay. Talk to understanding family and friends, and get help if you need to. It might take months or even years to feel better, but being proactive about your physical and mental health is worth it.

2.  There might be numerous car wrecks in The Timely Death Trilogy, but each one is symbolic in its own way – just as ones in my real life have become that way to me – and I think there’s a lesson in that. Events will affect everyone differently in the same sense that a story will affect each reader differently. Don’t change events in your story out of the fear that they might seem repetitive or not be good enough for everyone. Tell the story the best way that you can, and trust your readers. They will understand.

~SAT

The Hateful Generalization of the Millennials

20 Dec

As of December 18, 2013, this author became a graduate of the University of Kansas. 

This moment is really exciting, and I want to thank everyone who congratulated me on my Author Facebook Page as well as my Twitter. In fact, the University of Kansas was even on my Twitter and Facebook. Here are two pictures:

Screen Shot 2013-12-19 at 1.29.55 PM

KU

 

I could not thank everyone enough. Your encouragement does mean a lot. But today I want to talk about how I feel now that I’ve completed my undergraduate degree. I hope my opinion doesn’t offend any one because it is meant to be helpful. It’s honestly what I wish I was told when entering college in 2009.

I feel accomplished but not in the way I thought I would feel. 

In fact, two weeks ago I would’ve labeled myself as depressed. Now, this is normal during a transitional phase, but I was surprised that I could not find any information on the specific things that I was crestfallen about.

Time ticks forward.

Time ticks forward.

I was sad because I felt like I wasted my time, money, and energy at college. On top of that, when I reached out to society for help or support, I was met with a hateful generalization of the Millennials. Everyone knows the stereotypical definition of people born between 1980 and 2000.

If we went to college, we are labeled as entitled idiots with debt. If we don’t go to college, we are labeled as lost idiots that are lazy.

As a graduate, I do not expect a salary right out of school. I work hard – every day – and I am proud of my resume. I also know I am not alone in this. In today’s world, my story isn’t special, so I’m not going to go into details about it. The economic situation is far from comfortable, but I am tired of seeing a majority of discouraging articles directed at my generation.

I am not saying the situation is not our faults. I am not saying the situation is the faults of those before us. What I am saying is totally different.

Why are we spending so much time hating on the generations before and behind us instead of fighting to fix the issues together? 

We aren’t going to resolve anything by pointing fingers. Instead of theorizing about our economic situation or discouraging graduates and working adults, we should be encouraging everyone to continue to work hard.

Now, on the other hand, I am somewhat disappointed in the education system.

Out of all of my classes and professors, I can probably only remember a couple that I truly enjoyed and learned in-depth from. That is the truth. When I went to college, I thought it would FINALLY be the time for higher learning, challenging courses, and independent thinking. It wasn’t. Instead, it was a whole-lot of jumping through hoops and doing what I was told.

Education, at every level, is an institution for the masses rather than a support system for individualism.

Do not get me wrong. I certainly appreciate my opportunity to have participated in the higher education system. I would only like to see it improve. One week ago, I would’ve blamed my depression solely on college, but now that I look back, I know that it is more about what is happening in the world today economically, socially, and politically.

Simply put, the point of this article is to encourage everyone in and out of the Millennials to be positive about the future and work hard to get there. We will all get ahead if we stop pushing everyone down as we go. We need to support one another to move forward.

I enjoy Isaac Newton’s quote, If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

We are the giants. We must let the generations behind us stand on our shoulders instead of crushing their dreams beneath our feet.

The greatest lessons I learned were from those mentors and teachers who allowed me to stand on their shoulders.

~SAT

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