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My Love Story: Poetry Edition

14 Sep

Announcements: 

Bonnie Brown’s Book Reviews posted her thoughts on Minutes Before Sunset, stating, “This was a book I slowly fell in love with. When I first picked it up, I wasn’t instantly hooked on it but as the pages ticked by I realized I was falling further and further in love with the story and characters. Until it became one of those books that you think, ‘okay, just a few more pages before work…….’. Then you look up at the clock and realize your already supposed to be at work and your still in your jammies… reading the book…~Oops~It’s one of those books.” But you can read more of her love story by clicking here.

My Love Story: Poetry Edition

I’ve been receiving a handful of messages and emails about my interactive poetry series on Wattpad, so I thought I would address my poems a little bit more today. But – first – I am so grateful that you’re enjoying my latest endeavor, and I look forward to sharing more in the near future. Many of you have asked me about my poetry – mainly regarding my voice and subject matter – and I am here to announce one thing: I will be explaining the poems during my YouTube posts, and you can expect the first post later this week. That being said, today I’m telling a story. (Because I’m still a story-teller) and that story is my love story with poetry.

When we met:

Strangely enough, it was a college breakup that brought us together. My brief breakup with fiction writing. It was the second semester of my freshman year, but during my previous semester at KU, I had taken a fiction-writing course that I was extremely dissatisfied with. So dissatisfied that I decided to reject studying fiction altogether. I was only comfortable with this because I felt like I knew enough about fiction that I could study it on my own. So I turned my attention to genres I wasn’t familiar with. I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone, and I signed up for poetry. (I would later return to studying fiction and also screenwriting as well.)

Our first date:

Oddly enough, it wasn’t in the classroom. It was outside of the classroom. Over winter break, I had picked up a few poetry books, and I was reading “Sailing Around an Open Room” by Billy Collins on one of my favorite benches in the Wescoe building. That’s when a class was released, and a woman ran up to me only to sit down SUPER close to me. (If you know me, I’m not a very touchy person, so this sort of scared me.) It turned out she was a poetry professor, and she was hoping I had signed up for her class. I hadn’t. I had signed up for another class because it worked with my schedule. She was disappointed but very glad that I was studying poetry. Her smile was the first moment I started to feel less nervous about it.

How we held hands:

Poetry Writing I by poet Megan Kaminski was the course I took, and she was kind and thoughtful and encouraging and never scary. And that was perfect because I was still sort of terrified. I had never written a poem in my life, and Kaminski promised she was okay with that. I found out that there were quite a few students in the classroom like me, and I still wonder if they giggle at our first poems as much as I giggle at mine. (I also shudder.) But we started reading poetry, and we started talking about poetry, and we started writing poetry, and we discovered so much about one another.

Oh, yes, we kissed:

I wish I could remember if it was snowing that day, but all I remember is how the poem affected my insides. It was “Sleeping with the Dictionary” by Harryette Mullen that got me. And if you read the poem, you will understand what I mean when I say I was “Aroused by myriad possibilities” that poetry gave, and I wanted to explore them as much as I could.

picture from incite faith.com

picture from incite faith.com

And soon, we fell in love:

Somewhere in that exploring I fell in love. I like to say “we” but I have yet to understand whether or not poetry can love one back. Still, I stayed, and I took more courses after that. I even attended Poetry Writing II twice. (Thank goodness KU counted both of them as credits.) And I was able to meet C.A. Conrad and talk to Evie Shockley and my class had lunch with two other poets we read about and my teacher was a poet and it was wonderful. Everything was wonderful.

Kristine

Kristine and I on her 20th birthday.

But it broke my heart:

If you’ve been with me since the beginning, then, you will remember this post – Inspiration Meet: Kristine Andersen – On October 7, 2012, my college roommate, Kristine Andersen, passed away, but you might not have known that we had taken our first class together that semester. It was my senior year, and she had just switched over to an English major, and I was helping her with her writing when she decided to join one of my poetry classes. We sat right next to each other in class, but after she died, I was terrified – so terrified – of returning to that poetry class.

And I had to heal my heart:

When I finally found the strength to return to school, I will never forget how my class still placed her chair in the circle after she died. Her chair remained there. And we continued to learn, and we continued to write, and our poetry was published later that semester in Kristine’s name, and the collection sits on my desk, and I think about her a lot – her writing and her life – and I try not to remember that this October will be two years since she passed, but I make myself remember because that is how we cope – by facing it. By writing about it. By feeling it once again. So I write a poem.

Eventually, I loved again:

I write many poems now, but it has only been recently that I have begun sharing them openly. I believe “Regretful Memories” being accepted by LALUNA Magazine has given me the additional strength and support that I needed, but this website has also given me love and courage. Writing is a journey, and we’re always learning and exploring new possibilities in order to channel our passion so we can share it fully with the world.

Poetry is one of the many ways I hope to help the world with because poetry has helped my world.

I think that is why I call it love.

~SAT

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

3 Aug

Announcements:

I’ve updated my publications picture! You can see it around my website, including my pages: About Me and Novels.

update

Managing Multiple Projects at Once

Okay. So here’s the truth. I’m not an expert on this topic. Personally, I’m struggling with this right now. While I’ve never found writing numerous books at the same time difficult, I do find marketing one book while writing another difficult, especially when they are in different worlds entirely. Maybe it’s the way my brain wires cross. It just doesn’t work. It hurts my cranium. My mushy muscle master feels…well, mushy. So here are my tips that I’ve come up with for others who’ve struggled like I have.

1. Set aside a time for each project:

Maybe you spend the morning writing and the evening marketing. Separating the two can help keep your mindset in check, and eventually, you mind will adjust to expecting this schedule, so it will be easier to focus on what you’ve scheduled to focus on. I do this with work. When I wake up, it’s email time. When I eat lunch, it’s marketing time. When I finish dinner, it’s writing time. I even have my breaks scheduled, and those breaks help my mind flip over to my next task. Hardcore? Maybe. I’m on my schedule right now. I blog right after dinner and right before I focus on writing books. But it works for me, and it’s important to find what works for you.

2. If you don’t want to dance, get off the dance floor

What does dancing have to do with writing? A lot. Because this is a metaphor. If you just can’t get in the mindset of Project A because you’re still focused on Project B, that’s okay. Work on Project B, try not to worry about Project A, and move forward productively. If you continue to beat yourself up, you’re not going to get anywhere with anything. In this metaphoric world, you’re just going to stand in the middle of the dance floor, contemplating whether you want to do the jive or the twerk without realizing you’re at a disco. But who cares? You can dance however you want to.

3. Step Away, Clear Your Head, and Take Care of Yourself

I shouldn’t have to explain this, but I do because this is the biggest problem I – personally – have. I’m obsessive in nature in an unhealthy way. Seriously. I can admit this about myself. When I have a deadline I’m worried about, I forget to eat, and when I do eat, I don’t eat well. I drink too much coffee, and the tangles in my hair become so bad that Medusa’s snakes would be terrified of me. But I’m learning, and I’m getting better at closing my laptop, Weebo, before my vision gets blurry. I go to the gym, I buy a goddamn sandwich, I see friends, I laugh, and I don’t think about my books. I might have to force my book thoughts away, but it’s worth it because I am refreshed when I finally sit back down and get to work.

Speaking of which, I’m about to sit down to work on Death Before Daylight. We’re about 30,000 words into the content edits, and I’m hoping to have the manuscript out late this year or by early next year. But I hope you enjoyed these tips. If you have any tips for managing multiple projects at once, feel free to share them below! I could always use more help, and I’m sure all of us writers would appreciate the ideas.

~SAT

Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction

18 Jul

Announcements: 

Take Me Tomorrow released as an eBook, and I’ve already received two reviews from wonderful readers that I want to take a moment to thank today. If you post a review, please let me know at shannonathompson@aol.com, and I will be more than happy to share it right here on ShannonAThompson.com.

Chris Pavesic writes, “The story itself is fascinating. Thompson unravels the mystery slowly for her readers; I read it in one sitting.” But you can read the full review by clicking here. I’ll also be referencing a part of this review in today’s post.

Live. Laugh. Read. reviewed all of the characters individually (so beware of spoilers) but she wrote, “All in all, a great story with awesome characters who had each other’s backs in a unique dystopian world. I highly recommend Take Me Tomorrow to those seeking an interesting read with characters that you can love and a plot line that twists and turns.” Read the full review by clicking here.

But don’t worry! I also have news for fans of The Timely Death Trilogy. Camisado Mind interviewed me, and I discuss the latest developments of Death Before Daylight, book 3, which is slated for release at the end of the year. (Can you believe it?) The trilogy is coming to an end, but a new book is just beginning.

Thank you for reading!

Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction

Disclaimer: Just a fair warning – this post is controversial, but I will delete any comment that I consider to be bullying or purposely attacking certain people, specifically in regards to drug abuse and addiction. I encourage everyone to share their opinions, but please be respectful of others. That is my only rule.

As you can tell from my announcements, this week has been insanely rad. Take Me Tomorrow is officially available on Amazon and Smashwords as an eBook for $3.89, and the paperback will release soon – It’ll also be available at Barnes & Noble and other locations soon. But today, I wanted to discuss the content of my novel and mix it with comments from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and reviews. Before I go any further, I am going to be talking about controversial topics that I understand many won’t agree with. I am not attempting to have anyone agree with me nor change their views. I am only writing this piece to explain why I decided to write Take Me Tomorrow and why it is important to me as an individual in society. I have provided further links for more information, including my personal life, that reflects much of the research that went into creating my recent novel.

Take Me Tomorrow is a young-adult, dystopian novel set in a world where the existence of a clairvoyant drug has caused a massacre. In case you want the full synopsis, here is the link to Amazon.

So why drugs?

Understanding drug use is very important to me, although I will take this moment to clarify that I am not encouraging drug use in anyway. However, I think it’s very important to understand various aspects of drug use, including addiction, abuse, trafficking, and basic creation. Why do I think this important? Why did I include various topics about drugs in Take Me Tomorrow?

“About 570,000 people die annually due to drug use. That breaks down to about 440,000 from disease related to tobacco, 85,000 due to alcohol, 20,000 due to illicit (illegal) drugs, and 20,000 due to prescription drug abuse.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Photo from Colorado Mobile Drug Testing

Photo from Colorado Mobile Drug Testing

My mother is among those who have died from prescription drug abuse. She was college educated, worked at a law firm, lived in the suburbs, and she was 44 years old when she died in her sleep very suddenly. There was no warning, and – in fact – according to her autopsy report, she had not taken a ‘lethal amount.’ The amount that ended her short life was prescribed to her. That being said, she did abuse her prescriptions in the past, and I was very angry for a very long time. I had all of the stereotypical thoughts people who lose loved one to drug abuse have:

How could she choose her addiction over her family? Why didn’t she get more help? (Because she did get years of professional help) It’s her fault she’s an addict. She was weak. She loved her drugs more than us.

And a few years later, I got old enough to research and understand more about addiction and drugs, both legal and illegal. To be honest, I don’t see much of a difference between legal and illegal now. If you didn’t notice from my previous statistic, the same amount of people die from legal and illegal drug abuse a year, unless you include alcohol and tobacco into the legal statistic; then, more people die from legal drugs than from illegal drugs per year. (I told you this would be controversial.) Going beyond that, many illegal drugs were once legal, and many legal drugs today will become illegal in the future. In fact, did you know that cocaine and heroin were given out to children between 1890 and 1910? (Here’s a short article.) And that isn’t just the beginning of how drugs have affected our society. One of my favorite shows – America’s Secret Slang – has an ENTIRE episode dedicated to phrases we use that derive just from drug use, including “pipe dream” and “up to snuff.” They talk about both legal and illegal drugs, even mentioning how heroin was purposely named heroin to get buyers to believe they could be a “heroine” if they took this drug.

I don’t want to spoil my newly released novel, but Take Me Tomorrow discusses this as well as addiction.

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother and I on Christmas, 1999

My mother was an addict. She was dependent on her drugs. But her drugs were prescribed to her for various health problems, including Raynaud’s Disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and nerve damage caused by a car wreck in which she broke her neck. Without her drugs, she was unable to move or function as a ‘normal’ adult, but there are many studies that go beyond this.

“It is often mistakenly assumed that drug abusers lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop using drugs simply by choosing to change their behavior. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than good intentions or a strong will. In fact, because drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse, quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

Despite this, society often treats drug abusers like immoral and incapable individuals. Society portrays drug users as confused people on the streets, shooting up to get high, when in reality – many drug abusers begin with prescribed drugs. (Spoiler Alert) In Take Me Tomorrow, you will read about the fictional drug “tomo” that was originally created in pharmacies, but you will also read about addiction, abuse, and the consequences of it all. But I want to clarify one thing – I am not against medicine. I myself have two medications that I take on a regular basis – two I have to take just to eat food.

When I was seventeen, I went from 139 lbs. to 109 lbs. in three days. No one knew what was wrong, and I was in extensive testing for months before I found out that I have a tumor in my liver. It causes numerous problems, but – without getting into too much detail – my natural body rejects food now. So I am also dependent on a drug that helps me function like a regular human being who can…you know, eat food. Despite this, I am constantly trying to find natural remedies to help with my illness, and I am always trying to understand drugs, both positive and negative effects.

I could – quite literally – write books on this topic, but I decided to write Take Me Tomorrow to express the complicated world of drug use. I don’t want to spoil my novel, but you will see a character who is addicted for various reasons. You will also see violence associated with the drug, why the drug was made, who takes it, and how different types of people feel about it. I marketed it to the young-adult crowd, because of one simple fact:

“…education and outreach are key in helping youth and the general public understand the risks of drug abuse.” – National Institute on Drug Abuse

I hope that Take Me Tomorrow causes readers to understand everything they can about good and bad effects drugs can have, and I hope they research all that they can about drugs in order to understand how we can help more people. (Because – again – there are positive effects.)

But there are more topics that I cover in Take Me Tomorrow. I specifically wanted to focus on how youth is affected by drugs and crime related to drugs. I include immigration issues, as stated by Chris Pavesic’s review, “When reading Take Me Tomorrow, my thoughts drew comparisons between the current immigration crisis in the United States, where unaccompanied minors are illegally crossing the border in vast numbers fleeing faltering economies, rising crime, and gang activity in their Central American homelands, and the issued faced by Thompson’s characters as they flee similar situations.” My hope, when I included immigration issues, was to show that drug abuse is not only about drug abuse. It also affects other political issues that often pop up in the every day (and very real) world that we live in.

I understand how heated this issue can get. I – for one – followed Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death with a pounding heart. It hurt me to see people say his death didn’t matter because “he asked for it” – because I am a motherless daughter from a death that DOES matter for the same reasons. If you want to differentiate between her drugs and his drugs, I highly recommend you watch this full episode from Dr. Oz, because he talks about the LEGAL drug Zohydro that could spark another drug epidemic. I am sad to say that I am getting emotional just typing this article up because of how many people I know who have been affected by both legal and illegal drug use as well as the ignorance that has hurt them even more. In fact, when I learned about how my mother died from drugs, I started to lie about her death, and I told people my mother was murdered instead of from drugs because I was literally made fun of when people found out. (Disclaimer: Please, keep in mind that I was eleven years old at this time. I am ashamed that I lied like that, but it was my natural reaction to the severe bullying I endured after her death… And, yes, I was bullied because my mother died. In fact, I was told I was going to hell at one point.)

We need better programs, but we need more understanding first, and – if my novel can encourage one person to research both aspects – I can consider it successful. Until then, I understand how a reader might backlash against it. I understand how a dozen readers will become uncomfortable during various aspects of it. I did, too. I don’t want to see a young person addicted anymore than the next person, but that is why I included a young character who is addicted for various reasons, and that is why I wrote about this issue. That is why I chose to publish it.

Even though Take Me Tomorrow is dystopian fiction, I want readers to see the realities I’ve lived through – as well as the many thousands of people who have also become victims of drug abuse through many ways, whether it be personal or through the loss of a friend or through the struggles of a loved one.

On one last note, I could not include every aspect – every angle – that I wish I could have in this post nor could I include everything I wanted to include in my novel, but I hope that this is a fair explanation as to why this topic was so vital for me to cover in my writing career.

Thank you for reading,

~SAT

TMTready

Different Social Medias and How I Use Them as an Author

8 Jul

One announcement today:

Taking on a World of Words nominated ShannonAThompson.com for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award! Thank you :D When I am nominated, I post the facts and blogs on my Facebook page, but I also want you to check out the three blogs I nominated: Ciara Darren, Fallen Manga Studios, Elie Eldritch.

Different Social Medias and How I Use Them

As a writer, readers might picture my every day schedule as my laptop and I sitting in a café, writing out the next novel to be released, but – in fact – that’s pretty far from the truth. I spend a good portion of my time on social media, both for myself and for AEC Stellar Publishing. Even if it looks like I’m logged off, chances are that I am writing a future post and scheduling it on a timer – chances are that I’m constantly posting somewhere online.

I first signed on with AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. as an author only. But a few months in, they asked me to become a Social Media Wizard. (That’s right. I’m a retired Wizard.) During that time, I learned a lot about how to optimize social media for authors, but I also had personal preferences that I still use today. During this post, I’m going to share the different social media platforms I enjoy and struggle with. If I struggle with it, I’ll try to find a helpful author that I know who uses that specific platform.

WordPress:

If you didn’t already know, this website is based off of WordPress. This is – by far – my favorite platform to participate on. Not only can I express what I’m doing in detail, but I can also go see what my readers are doing. I love being able to share pictures and links and ideas in depth – so I guess you could say that I love my blog. A blog allows us to express our day-to-day lives or to share inspirational messages or to connect on a deeper level than 150 characters. That being said, a blog demands a lot of time. I, personally, post every other day. That may not sound like a lot, but it takes up a majority of my social media time. Because of the level of fans I can meet, I definitely think it is worth it though – but even if I couldn’t meet fans, a blog is something I enjoy, so I believe I would blog anyway. In fact, I used to have another blog before this one.

Facebook:

Join me today!

Join me today!

This is my number two, mainly because it is my top referrer to my blog. That being said, Facebook can be a tricky slope to climb (and a fast one to fall down on.) Facebook is constantly changing, and it has developed a bad reputation for keeping viewers away from the pages they like. However, I’ve had a lot of luck with it. I do get views and clicks that continue to grow, and that satisfies me, but I have learned one thing: if my views are going up, but then I post something that gets no likes, my next post has a less of a chance of being viewed. Basically, as soon as you climb, you can slide back down very, very quickly. But I think it’s important to figure out what makes your stats climb and what causes them to fall. For me, I try to mix it up with inspirational articles, news about my novels, fun photos, and engaging posts that allow readers to post their favorite pages and other things that they enjoy, so I can understand them. I also share posts from other pages, and I contribute to their pages as my page (not as my personal Facebook.) Beyond that, I participate in Facebook groups for authors and readers, which allows me to connect with even more people, and I friend those people with my personal Facebook so we can stay in contact easier.

Twitter:

At first, I really disliked Twitter. I still find it a little more difficult than Facebook. It always seemed to reach writers but not readers. But I’ve been focusing more energy on Twitter recently – simply posting about my day – and Twitter was ALMOST my top referrer last month. So I’m still trying to fully optimize this, but I do like it, and I am beginning to understand more hashtag opportunities as they come. For authors, I would suggest dwindling down the number of times one posts “5 Stars! Buy this steamy romance for .99 cents! (insert link here)” I see it every other post on my newsfeed, and it’s very rare that I see anyone retweet it. I almost feel like these posts cause readers to stop following writers. I’m not saying you can’t post that ever. But every five minutes is pretty bad. I try to share my blog posts on Twitter, but I mainly use Twitter to discuss trending topics – like when Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal came out. I live tweeted to fellow viewers, and I gained 50 followers in one night. (That was awesome!) An awesome fan also created a hashtag for Take Me Tomorrow, so if you ever tweet about my latest novel, please use the hashtag #Rx. :D

bomGoodreads:

I am friends with many readers on Goodreads, and I love adding novels to my bookshelf, but – in my opinion – I have yet to really use Goodreads in depth. I have participated in groups, and Minutes Before Sunset won an award on Goodreads – but I find myself drowning in how much information is on there. It’s fantastic. Don’t get me wrong. I definitely recommend it. But to participate the right way, I feel like you have to spend A LOT of time on there, and I don’t have as much time as I would like in order to fully communicate with everyone. And – as an author – Goodreads has terrified me from time-to-time. They have many new rules in place that tell authors not to communicate with readers, and if you do, your novels and profile can be taken off forever. (EEK!) I know many authors who continue talking to readers and many who don’t, but the risk keeps me away most of the time.

Pinterest:

This is a personal thing. I love it. I only recently started it. I met a few new readers and fans, but I’m enjoying it as an author because it is unbelievably fun to create your boards for your books. I’ve started creating “private” boards for books I’ve just started writing, so it might be a great place for me to go back and share original concepts when the novel is published. In fact, I have boards for The Timely Death Trilogy, Take Me Tomorrow, and November Snow.

Tumblr:

I started Tumblr in the same week as I started Pinterest. I can’t get a grip on it. I like it, but I miss the ability to comment or communicate in a lengthy fashion. That being said, I’ve met many authors who absolutely LOVE Tumblr, and Amber Skye Forbes has a great post about how to manage your Tumblr in an effective manner.

Instagram:

Believe it or not, I have met a few readers there, and I love to update it once a week or so. But I don’t believe it’s necessary to have one as an author. I enjoy taking pictures and sharing them, so it worked for me in the sense that it easily blended in with my every day life.

YouTube:

It’s been difficult to keep up with my channel, and I’ve only uploaded two videos, so I can’t say if this is a great platform or not yet (not from personal experience anyway) but I am planning on continuing it.

Wattpad:

I’m very grateful to Wattpad. I love it. I haven’t been able to spend more time there, though, so I can’t really say a lot about for now, but I can say that it helped me out a lot before I signed with AEC Stellar Publishing, so I do recommend it for writers looking for advice on their manuscripts, but I have yet to spend enough time on it recently to get in-depth about this platform. If you’re interested in reading more, check out my article From Wattpad to Publication.

LinkedIn:

I barely use LinkedIn. I have one, but I probably only log in once a month or so. That being said, I heard it’s a fantastic place for nonfiction writers.

So there you have it. These are a couple of social media places that I go to during my author life, and I hope you enjoyed reading about them. If I had to give any specific advice, I would say that authors should treat their social media like they treat their novels: be true to yourself. Don’t force social media just like how you wouldn’t force a novel. Find what type works for you and enjoy your time on it. Just because everyone spends hours on Facebook doesn’t mean you should, and just because I love blogging doesn’t mean every author should have a blog. I believe readers can tell if authors are enthusiastic or not in novels and on social media, so find one you’re passionate about. You’ll be talking to readers in no time at all.

~SAT

Genders Aren’t Defining Features: Why I’m Tired of Seeing Female Characters Described as Weak and Male Characters Hardly Being Discussed at all.

14 Jun

First, thank you so much for supporting the eBook release of Seconds Before Sunrise on June 12. I wanted to remind everyone that you can get my latest novel for only $0.99 on Smashwords by using the code – BW58C – but you can also go to Amazon and various websites.

Secondly, thank you to Jonas Lee for showcasing me on his website.

And lastly, I have a disclaimer: Today is obviously going to be a heavy discussion. I am not going to pretend that I could cover every little detail that I wish I could discuss. I couldn’t. Not even close. And I was quite sad to see the amount of information I had to delete just to have a reasonable blog post instead of a practice dissertation. That being said, I do plan on sharing more in the future if you would like me to continue this conversation, but I want this to be a positive place on the internet to discuss this topic. From the research I share below, I know how this topic can become highly sensitive very fast. Bullying, stereotyping, name-calling, and other spiteful comments will not be tolerated. I would also like to apologize to those who do not define themselves as male or female. Instead of discussing specifics, I will be discussing the beginning of my research and how the most popular results reflected my frustrations with judgment in literature.

Love,

SAT

Oh, no. I pulled out the gender card. I’m going to be one of those hardcore feminists – (whatever that word actually means ::sarcasm::) – and yes, I will be ranting about the stigmas of today’s world. Watch as people come running, some with popcorn, others with absolute disdain.

What else is new?

It’s a sad fact that I even struggled to write this piece. I’ve been working on it on-and-off for weeks now, wondering what was appropriate, how best to word it, and where to begin, but I should’ve been asking myself one thing: why censor myself at all?

The publishing industry isn’t new to this conversation, so I’m not going to bother with specific character examples. No matter what kind of reader you are, I am sure you’ve heard the debates over various female protagonists being “weak-minded” or “submissive” or “incapable.” In contrast – yes – there are conversations about male leads, but I do not believe they are nearly as judgmental as the discussions that go on and on about female leads.

What’s my proof?

Since I cannot go on forever, I found these two lists:

Yep. The stats for judging females are tripled, if not more, compared to their male counterparts, and that is only one set of lists on Goodreads alone. Even more unfortunate is how much these conversations continue through the depths of the chaotic Internet waves, never-ending, always judging.

Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am not blaming any specific person for this trend. I am not attacking men. I am not attacking women. I am not attacking any of the participants on voting lists or the writers of the articles I am about to share. I simply want to discuss how we – as readers – are judging women in novels more harshly when we shouldn’t be judging any gender at all.

I decided to start where most Internet addicts go – Google – and I knew I wanted to focus on how male and female leads in literature are judged, so I read a few articles here and there when I kept coming across something along these lines: “Author A should be ashamed for creating a character like this for girl’s (or boy’s) to look up to.”

Every discussion generally came back to the author, including an author’s history, religion, or other personal information. As an author myself, this disturbed me because I am adamant that authors are NOT their characters. Yes, some use real-life inspiration but that does not mean that the author intends for a young girl or boy to look up to a fictional character so much that they start repeating their actions. It’s important for readers to separate themselves from characters. (Ouch. I know.) I love characters, too. Some characters I’ve read have helped me through many difficult times in my life, and they will always be close to my heart, but I wouldn’t dress in a green dress to fight demons and fall in love with my enemy just because Serena does that in Daughters of the Moon. And I doubt Lynne Ewing wanted my 12-year-old self to sneak out of the house to fight paranormal crime anymore than my parents did. I am not saying you cannot look up to characters. You definitely can. But there’s a difference in looking up to a character and allowing a fiction world to dictate your decisions in reality.

But I’m moving on from that—(I could talk about that all night)—I want to talk about the next piece of research I did.

What does it mean to be a “good” male or female character?

mint-male-symbol-hiThis is when I returned to handy-dandy Google. I’m about to share the results that bothered me, but I need to take a moment to clarify that this isn’t going to be about how to write that character that will never be judged.

A)   Every character will always be judged

B)   The results are what I’m focusing on because they show how we focus our judgment in gender roles.

Here are pre-typed suggestion results:

When I Googled “How to write a good male character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good male dating profile came up first. (Followed by social media profile, THEN character, and then a personal ad)

When I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • Pre-Typed Results: How to write a good female protagonist came up first. (Followed by female lead, villain, and THEN dating profile.)

It seems we are more nervous writing about a female character than a male character in literature. We’re also curious about villains and leads. But these did not show up in the top four for males.

As frustrating as this was, I continued to Google anyway. I wanted to see the articles. I wanted more insight. I wanted to see what authors “should” be doing and what readers think, so here are the top articles I found: (these articles are informative and amazing pieces. My point is NOT against them, but how we view writing female and male characters in general.)

I Googled “How to write a good male character” These are the first articles that pop up:

Here’s something you should know about me. I HATE the words masculine and feminine. Perhaps because I have constantly been told that I’m a rather masculine girl, “one of the boys”, part of the gang, a “cool” girl. This generally happens because I drive a manual, collect knives, and have seen more dead animals than I would care to admit. I hate makeup, and I wear combat boots every day. I’m used to it. Whatever. What I hate is that these things are “masculine” – that if I do it, I am “masculine” – but so are female characters. In fact, I was reading an article that told female writers to stop having their female characters driving sticks, because it is a lazy attempt to get her to seem deep.

What the actual hell.

red-basic-female-symbol-hiFirst of all, driving a manual isn’t deep. (I should know. I drive one.) It’s learning how to press an extra pedal and move the gears around. Second of all, whether a female is driving a stick or a male is driving a stick, it shouldn’t be seen as masculine or feminine or a blatant attempt to break some weird social stigma we deal with every day. Third of all…UGH. In this belief, there is no winning with female characters. You lose if you use stereotypes and you lose if you don’t because you’re seen as purposely trying to stray away from “realistic” expectations. (This is also where I would like to point out that there are many articles complaining about the various dystopian novels and their female leads being so capable with weapons… I don’t even live in “dystopia” and I have weapons. Try me.)

In case you want the other results, here are the top three articles I found when I Googled “How to write a good female character”

  • How to Write a Main Female Character: this article actually begins stating that female characters are the most complex characters, but I have an argument. We need to stop thinking of women as more complex than men. We’re human. We’re all complex. And a good character – no matter the gender – will be complex.
  • Overcoming Object Love: How to Write Female Leads Who Are People: The title sounds horrible, but the writer does tackle another issue: female characters being treated as “objects, objectives, or incentives.” But it’s terribly sad that we live in a world where we have to CLARIFY that woman are people, too, so female characters should reflect that. I definitely did not see anything close to this on the male results.
  • On Writing Strong (Female) Characters: Again, nothing against the articles. I just dream of a day where articles are based on writing strong characters without focusing on what gender they are.

Just a quick summary: when I research male characters, the results were directed on how women can write them as masculine, and when I searched female characters, I was exposed to objectification. Both of the results revealed gender stereotypes I disdain – both in society and in literature. This isn’t just an article about how we need to stop judging female characters. We need to stop stereotyping male characters, too. But here is my main question:

Can we please stop judging all of our characters based on their genders?

When we do this, we are teaching young readers that they won’t be safe – not even in fiction. That might seem extreme to some, but let’s look at the widely popular complaint: “That female character was weak because of x, y, and z.”

A weakness should never be based on the expectations of a gender, but I would even go so far as to say that we need to stop calling characters weak in general. One (wo)man’s weakness is another (wo)man’s strength, and sometimes, they are the same thing. That is the complexity in literature. That is the complexity of life. And gender shouldn’t devalue the moral ambiguity displayed in various novels in a world filled with so many genres and eclectic tastes. The physical description should be the last thing we mention.

Genders do not define us. They shouldn’t define our characters either. 

~SAT

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Everything I Learned From “Against YA” and More

7 Jun Illustration by Liana Finck, found via Slate article

Two announcements before my post:

T.B. Markinson’s debut novel, A Woman Lost, is on sale until June 11th. Only .99 cents. I really admire T.B. Markinson, so I hope you take the time to check out her novel by clicking here.

The eBook of Seconds Before Sunrise releases in 5 days! That’s right. Only 5 days. I cannot believe it. I plan on sharing more insights from The Timely Death Trilogy soon. (Actually, I wanted to today, but the upcoming topic is very important to me.) Feel free to check out my Pinterest board full of hints and surprises before I announce more information, and be sure to join the ebook extravaganza party on Facebook for your chance to win a Kindle.

Happy reading!

Two days ago, my Facebook and Twitter blew up with a giant pink picture of an Alice-in-Wonderland-Look-Alike. It is an image that came with a title I cringe at: Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.Even worse? The subtitle is “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

This horrifying article I am about to discuss can be found here. Written by Ruth Graham (not by THE Ruth Graham, you know, the philanthropist, but by Ruth Graham of New Hampshire.)

Don’t know who she is?

According to her Twitter, she’s a “contributing writer to the Boston Globe’s Ideas section; freelancer out and about (Slate, the Atlantic…). Former editor (New York Sun, Domino).” Her website – Ruth Graham: Freelance Journalist – is actually right here on WordPress.

Why am I sharing this?

Because I think it’s important to understand the writer behind the piece. I was hoping that if I followed her, I would understand where her opinion derived from. I was desperate for a deeper understanding, a slight chance that she meant well when she clicked “publish” on her viral post, so I followed her Twitter feed yesterday. I learned a lot from the woman behind the chaotic arguments that consumed every social media outlet I can think of, and I thought I would share what I learned below.

This wasn’t good for my blood pressure. It probably won’t be for yours either. You have been warned.

1. “Also YA writers & agents asking if I think they shouldn’t do their jobs. Uh, no? Definitely keep doing your jobs!”

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It isn’t okay to read YA as an adult, but it’s definitely okay if you can make money off of it. Also, if you’re a YA author, make sure to tell your adult readers that if “they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.” This is because all YA novels are “uniformly satisfying” and completely unrealistic. Make sure your YA novel follows these standards because they are undoubtedly true. Every YA ending causes you to either weep or cry. Trust me on this. Graham explained how “emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” Forget the fact that fiction is FICTION – not nonfiction. Adult fiction is a reflection of the real world and young adult fiction is a pleasurable escape from reality. Every. Time.

2. “Another mysterious thread today has been angry librarians & parents defending themselves for reading YA for professional/parenting reasons.”

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So mysterious. Readers actually want to defend a genre they read? Whoever thought readers actually cared about books? I definitely wouldn’t have expected teachers, librarians, and parents to defend novels they shared with their child. Weird. I would call Nancy Drew to get on the case, but I am a 22-year-old adult; therefore, I should no longer think of her as a viable reference to solving mysteries. But I do know this: parents should never read what their kids read. Knowing what their kid enjoys or trying to understand why their kid enjoys it is exactly why we have so many bad parents in this world. Librarians, too. Why should they spend more time trying to understand the marketplace? It’s not like it’s their job or something.

3. “I’m not saying I’m not pretentious at all, of course. But I’m definitely not the MOST pretentious. But trust me: There’s more pretentious stuff out there.”

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If you’re not the most pretentious, you’re okay. If you’re not the most mean-spirited or hateful or cruel, it’s also okay because there are worst people out there. In regards to reader shaming and reading snobbery, as long as you’re not the worst, it’s okay. Just put the disclaimer, “at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old.” Follow that sentence with “we are better than this.” This will unify your reader and you while also distracting them from the fact that you don’t sound snobbish, joyless, old, or pretentious. You just sound like you want everyone else to be.

4. “I’m not at all opposed to guilty pleasures! I’m just arguing for some guilt along with the pleasure.”

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You can read YA as an adult, but you better feel damn guilty about it. You better feel so guilty that you ask for a gift receipt anytime you buy a YA book at your local bookstore so they won’t know you are the reader. Actually, get an eReader, so no one knows what you’re reading in public. Shame on you if you don’t feel any guilt. You could’ve spent that time reading real literature, preferably something with “Weird facts, astonishing sentences, deeply unfamiliar (to me) characters, and big ideas about time and space and science and love.” This is what Ruth Graham reads without any guilt, because she considers it literary, so you should, too.

5. “Working on something today that will make some people mad, wheeeeeeee!”

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Rejoice in the fact that you can anger people. This means you’re an adult with important things to say. Angering people means you are, in fact, important, and you should be proud and happy to anger people. This is literature. This is what reading is all about.

Okay. So I may have gone a little overboard. My blood pressure is still too high, after all, but I had to respond. I had to point out the fact that this article was written, knowing how much it would anger the reading community, yet we allow it to go viral because it strikes a place in our reading hearts that HURTS.

We love to read what we love to read.

I am very passionate about changing our reading community to only encourage readers. In fact, I’ve written about this before in my blog post Readers Hating Other Readers, and – sadly – I doubt this will be my last time writing about this.

With a heavy heart, I want to conclude all of the emotions I have ever had about reader shaming:

Adults shouldn’t be embarrassed to read young adult fiction. No one should be embarrassed to read anything. Reader shaming is what we should be embarrassed of.

~SAT

P.S. If you’re a young adult fiction reader – no matter your age – I would love it if you read one of my novels. In fact, I will probably do a little dance of excitement if you do. I even share all reviews right here on ShannonAThompson.com. (If you’re boycotting Amazon, don’t worry. Also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.)

Click today!

Click today!

Marking Mother’s Day with Bookmarks

11 May

Special thanks goes out to Tony Jaa, actor and martial artist, for quoting my latest novel, Seconds Before Sunrise, on his official Twitter page. Known for Ong-BakFast and Furious 7, and his stunt work in the Mortal Kombat Annihilation, visit Tony Jaa on Twitter and Facebook.

tonyjaa

Check out my latest interview with Confessions of a Book Geek! I explained the specifics of my book covers, and I also invited five of my characters to lunch. It was a great time, so read it by clicking here.

Today is Mother’s Day – and as many of you know, my mother passed away very  suddenly when I was eleven years old. It’s not difficult for me to write about it necessarily, but there is this peculiar heaviness that happens on days like these. I say “peculiar” because it shifts every year. Sometimes, it is crushing, and other times, it is a wave, but it’s always sad. So I find myself doing what I do every year – and that is to find a way to celebrate her life and her love. And I did.

Bookmarks. 

She was the definition of an avid reader. In fact, when she passed, we donated most of her novels to a half-price bookstore, and they joked that an entire library – not a family – was donating. My mother was a library. We had these beautiful, tall oak bookshelves, and she layered the shelves with enormous collections of trinkets. (Hence why I always talk about trinkets.) But she also kept bookmarks, and I reflected on that today – thinking of what bookmarks have meant to me.

A Bookmark is a Memory:

asleep“This is where i fell asleep” is my oldest bookmark. It was my favorite when I was a kid. I believe I read all of the Dear America books and the Magic Tree House series with this bookmark slid in the pages. I even remember getting it at a book fair. (I think they were cheaper because of the grammatical error, but I’m not sure? I think the i” was definitely on purpose and probably didn’t go over well with parents.) ANYWAY – I loved animals, so this was perfect for me. It used to even have a little puppy attached to the top, but that didn’t last for very long [obviously]. I don’t use it anymore, but it sits on my shelf of accomplishments. (Yes, I have something as egotistical as a shelf of accomplishments ::sigh:: It’s how I stay motivated.) But this bookmark reminds me of childhood and how I lost myself and found myself in novels, whether it was my first You Choose the Story Scooby Doo books, Goosebumps, or The Journal of Scott Pendalton Collins: A World War 2 Soldier. (My favorite Dear America book.) This bookmark is a memory because this bookmark represents my childhood love for novels that continued into my adult life.

A Bookmark is a Friend

badass“i may appear harmless…but inside i’m completely badass” This is my current bookmark, and I love it so much. (And I also just realized the I have a thing for “i” being lowercased.) This bookmark was a gift I received from a wonderfully talented painter, and it brings a smile to my face anytime I open a book and read the words. Just as a friend does, it makes me laugh, smile, and enjoy the time ahead (in this case, a novel.) Also, who couldn’t love the phrase? If you still need coaxing, it’s a magnetic bookmark – so it never falls out. This is good for clumsy readers such as myself. And – once again – like a friend, it is prepared more than I am. It knows I’m clumsy, even before I remember I am. The fact that it is also a gift reminds me of how much a gift can warm a heart up, no matter how small it is. This bookmark is a friend because this bookmark reminds me of laughter and staying true to myself.

A Bookmark is a Lifetime

mom“A hundred years from now, the world may be different because I was important in the life of my child” This bookmark is the most important bookmark that I own. It was my mother’s, and she was actually using it when she died. I keep it in a memory box to keep it safe, but this bookmark reminds me of how much she loved her family and how much she believed in all of our futures. On the most difficult days – like Mother’s  Day – it shows me how she would still be encouraging me if she were still alive, and in a way, she does encourage me by leaving behind a bookmark like this one. I may not be able to live up to the bookmark. I may not be able to change the world in 100 years. But I can at least try to change the world around me by encouraging and helping others to follow their dreams just as my mother encouraged me to follow my dreams.

Bookmarks don’t only mark a stopping place in a novel. They can symbolize parts of life and remind us of all the strength and passion we have to live for.  For me, they mark places in my heart , but they also remind me of where I left off so I can begin again.

~SAT

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