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The Sequel Can Wait

18 Oct

Announcements:

The third section of my interactive poetry series has begun, and you can read the first poem – Miscarriage – by clicking the title. Here are the opening lines:

If I hadn’t stepped outside, I would not

have seen the cloud buried deep in the approaching

storm I vaguely remembering hearing about.

(Vote, share, and comment for your chance to be mentioned during my next YouTube video.)

Special thanks goes out to The Incorrigible Reader for reviewing Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise, book 1 and book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, here. Find out why she said, “I really did love this series! It was intriguing, exciting, romantic, and so hard to put down!’ 

Another huge thank you goes out to SDAV Reads for reviewing Take Me Tomorrow. She describes both the character development and the world-building, but here’s a quote, “So even amidst some very serious fights, explosions, and runaway escapes worthy of Doctor Who, there is a lot of time spent with the emotions of the characters so that you end up feeling as connected to them as you ought to. They’re very well developed…If you like Dystopic books, or even if you don’t and you just want a good thriller, Take Me Tomorrow is certainly one to add to your shelf!” Read her full review here.

And I am thanking one more book blogger – Note to Selph Book Reviews – for also reading Take Me Tomorrow. You can read her full review by clicking the link, but here is a quote from her, “The overall plot was intriguing and exciting, filled with plenty of action running from police and sneaking out at night.”

I cannot thank you all enough! Please check out my books by clicking these links: Minutes Before Sunset and Take Me Tomorrow. If you write a review, let me know, and I will be sure to share it right here!

The Sequel Can Wait:

Before anyone freaks out, no, this is not about the release dates of Take Me Yesterday or Death Before Daylight. Not entirely anyway. Instead, it’s rather about the pressure writers can put on themselves to get the next book out – and fast – and how destructive it can be to the entire writing (and reading) experience.

You see, I once heard that authors nowadays are expected to release a novel every six months. I’ve actually heard this more than once, but I believe one of the times was during a discussion author, Ryan Attard, had on his podcast, The Lurking Voice. He was simply discussing this trend, not necessarily agreeing with it. I want to clarify that because I think the idea of getting a novel out every six months is fantastic. It’s just extremely difficult, and it should not be expected. Ever.

A lot goes on behind the scenes in the publishing world. Writing isn’t even half of it. Content editing is completely different than line-editing, and a line edit is different than just an edit. Those are just three types of editing, not to mention formatting for both an eBook or a paperback or – god forbid – the hours that go behind an audio book. And cover art! Geez. I could go on forever, and I’m not even talking about the amount of hours, people, or cost behind it all (or the fact that most of these people have second jobs).

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Don’t get me wrong. I think it is great if an author can get a book out every six months. It can be done, and it can, in fact, be professional. After all, four months passed between the release of Seconds Before Sunrise and Take Me Tomorrow (but that explanation is for another post). It can be done, and it can be done well, but that does not – by any means – mean that every author should do this. Unfortunately, especially in the Indie market, authors are often competing with one another (a rather ridiculous notion in itself, but moving on…) and I’ve seen a lot of arguments that authors can’t possibly release books that quickly.

Again, it can be done, but I think authors should pick their timelines based on nothing but themselves. Basing it on readers’ expectations can be really destructive. For instance, you might rush editing to meet a deadline, and now, there are more mistakes readers are picking out in your novels, but if you hadn’t been trying to meet a deadline, you might have been more careful.

I say this with great caution. I know that this topic can cause a lot of bad blood, but I am author, and I go through the pressures of releasing the next book every day. The pressures are mainly focused on three things: get it out quickly, efficiently, and professionally. I’ve lost sleep over it. I’ve worried I was going to lose readers if Death Before Daylight took an extra three months to release. I’ve given myself writer’s block over it. And let me tell you – it isn’t worth it.

How do I know this?

Well, to be quite honest, I don’t. I’m still learning, and I still mess up. I estimated that Death Before Daylight could be cut down to 80,000 words in content edits, and I’ve already surpassed it. That being said, this had added time to my timeline, so it will probably come out later than AEC has been anticipating, and I have been losing my little writer’s mind over it. I feel guilty, and a huge part of me feels irresponsible at timing, satisfying my readers, and estimating my work abilities. That is a hard pill to swallow. But it is even harder to realize it isn’t a pill I have to swallow. Things happen in this industry, and we must roll with the punches, and readers will, too.

In fact, the other day, one of my all-time favorite authors, Meg Cabot, announced she will be releasing book 7 of the Mediator in 2015. Just to let you all know, it has been 15 years since book 6 came out. 15. And you know what? Readers are ecstatic. I’m ecstatic. 15 years is nothing for a fan. Look at all the talk about Harry Potter coming back. That’s about 10 years, and everyone is practically begging for it. And The Mortal Instruments movie was canceled, but the T.V. show is coming out, and although some are reluctant, I think most fans will give it a shot.

Of course readers want the sequel now. I am a reader myself. I understand the anticipation. Waiting for City of Heavenly Fire was so painful I cannot even begin to describe the countdown on my iCalendar, but I still picked the book up when it finally did release, and I never held it against Cassandra Clare, and I will always be excited for the release of a sequel whenever it happens. But – sometimes – I forget that as an author. On the writer side of things, I tear myself down, but on the reader side, I am only filled with excitement, and I think every author can benefit by remembering the support readers feel for authors. That pressure to release the next book is not pressure. It is support. It is encouragement. It is an excited fan-base authors should be proud of, not worried about, and it is the next step to enjoying every release, no matter how long it takes.

No matter how much time passes, words are endless, and there will be someone to read them. 

~SAT

Why Most of my Characters are Male

8 Oct

Announcements:

Red Sands Reviewz read Seconds Before Sunrise and wrote, “You know how they say sequels aren’t as good as the first? This is not the case. It was fun to read from the start to finish.” And now you can read her review from start to finish by clicking here.

Krazy Reads reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but this review inspired my blog post today, so I will be referring to it throughout my post! Even then, here’s a small quote, “Unlike most dystopian novels, this one felt the most real to me. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all dystopian novels, but for me, this seemed the most likely to actually happen.” Check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here.

Thank you, Krazy Reads.

Why Most of my Characters are Male

I’m doing something today that I have sworn to myself I would never, EVER do. I am responding to a book review. (Oh, the taboo!) Don’t worry. I have Krazy Reads permission, and it’s more or less not a response. It’s a deeper explanation that was inspired by a single section she wrote about my latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow:

Most of the characters are male, and while some people may say that seems unbalanced, to me, it fits perfectly. In the novel, the boys are fighting for a cause, they break laws, set bombs, and carry out rescue missions, so having most of the characters male fits, and I like how there are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

It’s true. I’m guilty. My latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow, has more male character than female characters, and before I explain why, I would like to clarify that I’m specifically talking about Take Me Tomorrow in this post. My other novels are not like this, and there will be minor spoilers throughout this piece. That being said, I am going to have to hold back on some explanations due to the fact that the sequel will deepen many of these explanations, and I don’t want to spoil major parts of the first novel. But I’m going to do my best to explain why I have more male characters than female characters, and I want to explain this because I have received dozens of emails asking me why Take Me Tomorrow is full of boys.

The main reason is, perhaps, the most important one: it was never a conscious decision. It just sort of happened, and it happened naturally. This is the same reason I ultimately never changed it, despite the fact that I had one beta reader in particular suggest it. Don’t get me wrong. I thought about it a lot. I did. I considered each and every character and their gender, but here’s what it ultimately came down to: it was never about their gender. It was about them, and here are the two main reasons, I believe, they were boys in the first place:

Their Past

Although some of the past is seen in Take Me Tomorrow, more is explained in the sequel – Take Me Yesterday (hence the title). But I am going to explain what I can. First of all, a lot of it has to do with how the society works. Even though boys and girls can see each other and go to school together, there are subtle hints the society subconsciously encourages them to be separate. For instance, the boys are more likely to be thrown in military for punishment, while the girls are generally thrown into the correctional houses – and the correctional houses that are blatantly separated by gender. The other subtle part was the dance. Sophia describes it as one of the only instances students from separate schools can meet. Socializing is definitely not encouraged, but let’s get down to physical relationships: Noah and Broden met as children, and although I cannot giveaway their full circumstances, they didn’t just become friends because their parents were friends or that they happened to be the same age. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I won’t explain Tony or the flashback of Liam too much, but those two boys were more or less a reflection of what could’ve happened to Noah if he were older. Pierson is explained in the sequel. (I’m sorry for how cryptic this is.) But I can talk about Miles. If no one noticed, the twins – Miles and Lily – don’t have a father, and again, more details will come in Take Me Yesterday, but I will say this: Miles was very attracted to Broden and Noah, the first two guys that gave him friendship. Lily, too (as explained in the book), but Miles pushed his sister away. I have an older brother. This happened to me. But that’s for my next section.

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

My Personal Life

After my mother died, I was practically raised by my older brother. (My dad, too, but he traveled a lot.) So I spent a lot of time with my brother and all of his friends, and – you guessed it – they were mostly guys, especially his best friends. We went hunting and off-roading and ate sandwiches by the lake when we fished. But – during some point – we didn’t hang out as much, and that just happens sometimes. I got friends of my own, but (you might have guessed again) most of my friends were guys. I was comfortable with guys. I was used to spending time with them, and there was no romance there. A girl can be, in fact, just friends with guys. So I think that leaked out with Sophia, but I think it happened because of Lily. That’s right. Because of Lily. Sophia is best friends with Lily, and Lily is the one who introduces Sophia to Miles and Broden. Sophia gets her guys friends by default, and if you read the story, you also might have noticed that Sophia is not a social butterfly like Lily is. Sophia would rather stay home with her dog and read. She was perfectly satisfied with Lily’s company, and Miles and Broden were just extra buddies she gained. And, yes, you will learn even more about all of their pasts, specifically with Broden, Lyn, and Sophia’s mother…oh, and Miles and Lily. Pretty much everyone. But now that we’re talking about the girls…

As an extra, I want to talk about the girls, and I want to start this section off by re-quoting what Krazy Reads said, “I like how they’re are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

Sure, the guys appear to be running things, but sometimes, as an author, I struggle to understand whether certain aspects are forgotten just because gender gets focused on. For instance, Miles is so terrified in the beginning, that he runs away, and Sophia – a girl – takes his place. That’s just one instance where the girls come to the rescue, and yes, there are more rescues and reasons, but sometimes, I worry that literature has trained us readers to focus more on boys rather than girls, which is no one’s fault. I’ve been guilty of it, too. But just because there are more boys does not mean that boys are more important, and in Take Me Tomorrow, they definitely cannot survive without the girls in their lives.

In fact, even though there are more boys in the novel, the numbers should not take away from the importance of Lily, Sophia, Lyn, and later on, Rinley. I wish I could explain what these girls do throughout the novel, but those pesky spoilers prevent me. That being said, these girls – as well as more girls – are seen in the sequel. (And, yes, the boys will be there as well.) But Take Me Tomorrow isn’t about how many boys or how many girls are present. It’s about drug use, abuse, addiction, immigration, tragedy, love, and war. And everyone can go through that, no matter what their gender is.

But – just for kick’s sake – here’s a list of reasons I have more male characters than female characters:

I was true to story.

~SAT

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

24 Sep

Announcements:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 18,000 followers! As a surprise, I shared the meaning behind all the chapter titles in Take Me Tomorrow on my Facebook page. Every chapter title is actually a direct quote from the chapter you’re about to read. This is to represent the clairvoyant drug, tomo, since it allows takers to experience the future. For those who haven’t read the story, tomo does not necessarily give you clear visions. It affects all people and all senses differently. Sometimes, you hear it, taste it, smell it, or feel it. In fact, it’s hardly ever clear as to what is happening. Only those who are experienced with the drug are able to interpret what they are experiencing, and even then, everything is just a guess, and the drug itself is debatable. But the chapter titles aren’t! If you go through the novel you will see the titles later on in the prose. Chapter One – Don’t Come Back – is found in this quote, “My heart lurched at his sudden change in demeanor, but I managed a nod toward the north. The forest opened up to the only park Topeka still had. ‘Don’t come back.’”

When Eat Books For Breakfast reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, she said it “was definitely an intriguing read—different from most of the other books in its genre…I would recommend it to readers of young adult dystopian fiction.” Read the full review by clicking here or check out my latest novel here.

I would also like to take a moment to thank Dan Thompson for including Take Me Tomorrow in his post Two Books Are Better Than One. (And no, believe it or not, we’re not related.)

Thank you for reading my announcements today!

Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction?

The other day, I was sitting in a hookah house while attending an online event. (I don’t always have the Internet at home, so I go there to work.) That’s when a good friend of mine came up to keep me company, and I was telling him about a novel I am working on. The main character is an orphan. That’s when we got to talking.

Why are parents always dead or absent?

This isn’t a new conversation. I’ve had it with many people, mainly in regards to Disney movies, but I think it applies to most fiction, especially young-adult fiction, but I’ll get to why I think that in a minute. First, I would like to admit that my stories are no exception. The Timely Death Trilogy involves two protagonists – Eric’s biological mother committed suicide, and his father doesn’t have the best relationship with his son, while both of Jessica’s biological parents died in a car wreck, but she was adopted, and she does have a good relationship with her adoptive parents. In Take Me Tomorrow, Sophia’s father is practically absent due to his traveling job, and her mother hasn’t been in her life since she was seven, but she does live with a mother-sister figure named Lyn. Why did I do this? I can’t speak for every author when I explain my theories, but I will explain my personal reasons for deceased or absent parents as well as a hypothesis from the literary side. Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am (in general) talking about fiction for children and young adults.

Literary reason:

Coming-of-age is a popular topic among fiction for teens and preteens, mainly because they are going through it themselves. That being said, I think a huge factor of “coming-of-age” is finding yourself through independence. This is one of the main reasons I believe parents aren’t included in fiction, whether that is through death or absence, but another reason includes freedom. I know. I know. I sound horrible for saying freedom in regards to an absent parent, but I don’t mean “freedom” as a good thing. I mean it as a driving force for a character to venture outside of their home, to go on adventures, to strive to survive on their own. If they had a perfect family at home, this need for survival or adventure would be hard to justify. But I would like to point out one thing that others seem to forget to mention. Even if a character is an orphan or under other unfortunate circumstances, the character (usually) has a parental figure, and I think that is just as important as having a “real” parent in the story. To me, a “real” parent doesn’t have to give life to a child or adopt a child or anything in terms of a traditional definition. I believe a parent can be anyone who is the main guide and protector for a child. In that sense, I don’t believe we take parents out of fiction. I think we show readers that parents (guidance) can come from many places, which can be vital during a time in which young people are striving for independence outside the home.

From The Write Catch

From The Write Catch

Personal reason:

I am only including this section to give insight to an author’s reasoning behind it (rather than my above section that simply guesses as to why we find ourselves in those instances.) When it comes to dead or removed parents in fiction, I can relate to it. My mother died when I was 11, and my father was a traveling businessman. I hardly saw him growing up. In fact, I saw nannies more, and we never had the same one for long. Mainly because my brother and I were rather…well…angry might be the best way of saying it. The only time we did have another parent in the house was my stepmother, and she was only married to my dad for a year before they were divorced, and we definitely didn’t get along. Whew. Is that enough personal information? I don’t necessarily have a problem sharing it, even if it makes others uncomfortable, because it was my life. My life is much better now. But it’s hard for me to imagine a teenage-life with parents being actively involved, so I personally write about orphans or absent parents because that was my life growing up, and my characters are going to reflect certain parts of my life, even when I don’t realize it. That being said, I still believe that parents are in my fiction (like Lyn with Sophia in Take Me Tomorrow or Jessica’s adoptive parents in The Timely Death Trilogy, not to mention Eric’s stepmother.)

So where am I going with this?

Sometimes authors aren’t writing about orphans or neglected kids for literary reasons. Sometimes they are writing from their heart, and – in reality – I have met more teenagers who can relate to absent situations than not. Having a “perfect” family is…let’s be real…impossible. No one is perfect. Everyone is human. And families will reflect that both in life and in fiction.

The reason that parents are generally dead and/or absent is simple: it happens. But that doesn’t mean we can’t add more parents to story lines. In my little opinion, including them is just as fine as not including them as long as the author is being true to the story.

Feel free to comment below with your reasons or thoughts on this topic! I know we’ve all at least read a novel or seen a Disney movie that includes this debate, so chat away,

~SAT

When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

6 Sep

Announcements:

I have a couple announcements today. First, I would like to thank The Opinionated Woman’s Musings and Books for Fun for nominating ShannonAThompson.com for the Lovely Blog Award. I nominated six blogs on my Facebook page to keep it going!

In other news, P.S. Bartlett interviewed me, and we discussed my writing process as well as how my works differ from other words in my genres. Check it out by clicking here. I also did another interview with The Examiner, but I will be talking about that today. So let’s get to chatting!

… 

When Characters Say Too Much or Too Little

This is actually inspired from one of my latest interviews. If you haven’t had a chance to read my interview with The Examiner, here is the link, but in case the link doesn’t work, we spoke about topics in Take Me Tomorrow that I didn’t write about in great detail despite the fact that it is a huge factor to the setting, time, and lives of my characters. If you’ve read even the back cover of Take Me Tomorrow, you know there was a massacre prior to the story taking place. After the massacre, the State – a.k.a. the government body – enforced stricter rules on the citizens to prevent another violent uprising. That being said, Take Me Tomorrow is told from one perspective – a 16-year-old girl named Sophia Gray – and she doesn’t get into much detail about the massacre. The Examiner asked me why, and I explained in our interview:

‘I wanted to show more information on the massacre, but Sophia was very young and still is when the novel takes place, so it didn’t come naturally,’ Thompson says. ‘I thought about 9/11 when I considered the event. I was 10 when that happened, and it took me many years to finally grasp it or understand the importance of the event, but I definitely didn’t understand it when it happened. So I took that approach with Sophia.’

I would also like to add that if a sequel is published – which is up to the readers – the massacre as well as many other questions will be answered, but in terms of Take Me Tomorrow, readers are right. I didn’t explain it in great detail. But there was a reason behind my decision as well as many other decisions I made, particularly with Noah telling the story. Although he did in the original version, I had to cut his voice, because of many reasons – the main one being that it isn’t his story. It’s Sophia’s – but the secondary reasons revolve around his character. (Spoiler alert) When he’s on drugs, his voice makes no sense, and when he’s sober, he tells way too much information. Like way too much. Like the ending too much. Mainly because he can see into the future. But that’s another aspect entirely.

So where am I going with this?

Authors are often struggling with characters. We love them, but the characters – not the author – are in charge, which means they make decisions we don’t like, but we ultimately accept them because they are the ones telling the story. There are four instances that authors deal with in terms of characters, and those four things are listed below.

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Sometimes characters don’t want to talk

I’ve mainly had this problem with my dual-perspective novels. I’ll wait for the boy to talk only to realize he is just not interested, and then, I realize I am going to have to write the entire novel from one perspective. But – eventually – he pops up, and then, I have to go back and add him later. Worst case scenario, they never talk at all, and I struggle to find a way to get around it or to coax them out. But I’m sure many authors have dealt with this, even labeling it writer’s block. I like to call it character’s block – because it’s them, not me – and I wait patiently for them to get over whatever is blocking them. Yes, I realize these are people in my head, but trust me when I say – sometimes – they won’t even talk to me.

Sometimes characters want to talk too much

This is when authors start screaming, “Shut up! Just. Shut. Up. You cannot tell everyone who the murderer is on the first page. Idiot. Then, we don’t have a story.” It happens. Oh, it happens. A character wants to give away everything the second they get a chance to speak. But it can be an easier problem to solve. A simple, “Hold back a little bit.” can solve everything, but it is still difficult when a character insists on exposing information an author wasn’t planning on telling until the end. Most of the time, I bite my lip, listen to the character, and hope they have a reason. They normally do. That being said, I have had to censor a character here and there for giving too much away too quickly. We need some suspense, after all.

Sometimes we (authors) force it

When I say “force” – for once – I don’t mean this as a bad thing. Sometimes, authors get lucky. We find spots that we can slide information in without having to destroy our character’s honesty in the process. I am referring to characters finding newspaper articles or television sets explaining certain events that characters might not understand. This helps because an “outside” source can explain what is happening without the character necessarily being involved. That being said, we don’t try to create these moments. If they happen naturally, fantastic, but we also don’t want to rely on these at every moment we are tempted to do so. (Because we are oh, so tempted.) But this can often lead to info-dumping or other uncomfortable circumstances if authors aren’t careful.

Other times we (authors) don’t force anything

This is what happened with me in Take Me Tomorrow. I could’ve forced information in, found a way to blame the information on the surroundings, but I realized many things when I contemplated that: The State wouldn’t leave documents of the massacre laying around for a 16-year-old girl to get her hands on. (That’s why the only info she does receive is from her father.) The news wouldn’t talk about it, and even if they did, Sophia spends too much time out in the woods to watch the news anyway. She might be oblivious to some of the political situations, but she is 16. Not only is she busy being 16, but she is busy surviving in her environment. Worrying about her dad, Lyn, Falo, and Argos is more important than understanding something that happened when she was 12, even if it was only a few years ago. I also had to keep in mind that she wasn’t directly affected by it at all in terms of her comfort zone (her family and friends.) If she had been, I would’ve been looking at a different situation. So I left it out because Sophia would leave it out. That being said, she is a different person at the end of the novel, and she might figure these things out in the sequel if it happens. But refocusing on not forcing it: sometimes characters need to be true to themselves, even if it is slightly destructive to the story. I don’t regret not having this information involved because I know that I was true to the circumstances, to Sophia, and to the world she lives in. And that isn’t destructive at all.

Sometimes authors have to make big decisions, but most of the time, characters do that for us. We just have to accept it and do the best we can do with their decisions.

Have you ever had these issues with a character? Experienced character’s block? Ever wondered why a character didn’t say something earlier on?

Talk about it below!

~SAT

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

26 Jul

Announcements:

We had a very exciting day yesterday! Take Me Tomorrow hit the top 100 in dystopian novels! It was even next to two of my favorite novels, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, and Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi so my little heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

65 in dystopian!

65 in dystopian!

Thank you for your support! Whether or not the sequel is released is entirely up to you, the readers and fans, so I hope you continue to check out my latest novel. (Because I really want to release the sequel!) Be sure to let me know if you post a review on your blog, so I can share it with everyone. Just email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

To celebrate, I finally uploaded the soundtrack of Take Me Tomorrow to my favorite music station, 8tracks, so you can check it out by clicking here.

In other news, I was interviewed by Diary of an Eager Reader, and you can read it by clicking here. We talk about my biggest challenges as a writer, but we also discussed Take Me Tomorrow if you want to read more about it! And if you want to interview me, again, I’m available at shannonathompson@aol.com. I love speaking with you! So please don’t hesitate to message me.

Fiction Complaints I’m Complaining About

We’ve all dealt with this. You’re interested in a novel, and you tiptoe over to Amazon to check it out. Once you read the synopsis, you scroll a little further (hesitantly, of course) to see what other readers are saying. That’s when you read “Best Book Ever!” and “I hate this piece of crap” right next to one another. Confusing? Yes. But even worse are the ones that don’t explain.

Today, I wanted to talk about my top fiction complaints that have left me staring at my screen a little too hard. I only hesitated to write about this because I’m an author, too, and I don’t want any reviewer to think I’m complaining about them. In fact – this might seem strange – but I don’t mind these complaints as an author. If I saw any of these on my books, it doesn’t bother me. After all, readers are allowed to say whatever they want. But it does bother me as a reader when I’m looking for book suggestions because the reviews suddenly become very difficult to sift through. That being said, I normally don’t buy books based on reviews. Generally, I read the synopsis, take a look at the first three chapters, and go from there, but I do find myself reading the reviews after I’m done reading, and these are the top complaints I see that I truly don’t understand:

I hate this genre

So…why did you pick it up? No. Seriously. I want to know. Did you think this would be an exception? Why did you think it would be an exception? Why did it not turn out to be an exception? I don’t necessarily mind this complaint if they answer these questions, but I hardly ever see that. I just see one or two stars and this single statement. This doesn’t help me decide if this book is good or bad or in-between or anything. It just tells me about your preference, which can get really confusing since genres can describe a wide range of stories. In fact, genres are normally only picked for marketing reasons.

I bought this book for are friends, and there not happy with it, so don’t waist you’re money.

Sigh. Seriously. ::facepalm:: This kind of review blows my mind – especially if they complain that the book wasn’t professionally edited.

Parent/s and/or sibling/s are dead (or absent)

Warning: longest rant to come:

I realize that there is an abundance of these instances, but of course there are. Someone is going to be dead or absent or mean or have some kind of conflicting problem. If a character’s family were perfect, how annoying would that be? (Not to mention that it would be entirely unrealistic.) I don’t know about you guys, but every person I’ve met isn’t perfect, including parents, and “imperfections” is generally why someone is interesting because it’s make them…you know…human.

When it comes to the young adult genre, I think it’s also important to remember that teen readers are in a time in their life where they are striving to be independent, so they probably don’t want to read a novel full of parental influence. Not that parental influence is a bad thing, but a teen might even look at a perfectly good parent as a bad parent just because they are teens. I know I was that way at one point, so if the book is told from their perspective that could be another reason this trend happens.

But I want to add this to the conversation: As a kid who went through the loss of a parent, gaining a stepfamily, and watching my dad get a divorce from said stepfamily, I am not special. I met dozens of teens that were also going through many of the same shifts I was going through. The divorce rate is currently 50%, and 1/7 people will lose a parent or a sibling before the age of 20, not to mention other issues families can have. But you still feel rather alone when you’re young, and seeing teens in books going through the same kind of struggles helps. That being said, I would like to see more books with both parents actively involved, but I wouldn’t complain about a book where a parent or sibling is absent whether it is physical or emotional because it happens often in real life.

Factually wrong information in general

We’ve all seen it. That one review that says something like, “This book is told in third person, and it’s really weird.” But when you open the sample novel up, it’s told in first person, and you’re sitting there, scratching your head as you seriously consider whether you forgot the definition of first and third person until you realize – nope, you’re not crazy. The reviewer put the review on the wrong book. Or – worse – they didn’t read the book at all.

There are too many boys/girls in the book

Why does their gender matter? As long as the characters are round – complicated and they are there for a reason – I could care less if they are boys or girls. I understand this complaint if it follows up with “every girl was falling in love with him for no reason” but I have seen someone mention exact numbers like, “there were 10 boys and 4 girls” without elaborating on WHY this was annoying…especially when the book takes place in an all-boys school or in some other instance where the extreme numbers make sense. Without mentioning a specific book, I did read a book about a boy character who had a lot of friends that were girls in which someone complained about it, but I didn’t understand, because the boy was raised by his mother and sister, so he was more comfortable around girls, and it made sense. I can relate to this. As a girl raised by my father and brother, I mainly had guy friends growing up. That doesn’t mean every single one of them felt romantic toward me. In fact, I was as attractive to them as a lamp would be – meaning, not at all – but I don’t see anything wrong with a boy having girls around him or a girl having guys around them as long as it makes sense to the story and isn’t an excuse to have an empty array of love interests.

(Insert controversial political or religious topic here)

Keep your politics out of fiction reviews unless the book is specifically about discussing them. I’m looking at you, anti-reviewers of erotica. (At least, this is where I see it the most.) I have nothing wrong with someone having specific beliefs about when a man or a woman or anyone has sex with someone, but don’t shove it down others’ throats by filling up erotica book reviews with “I only read romance novels when they’re married like you should be” when you haven’t read a single page of their book. It doesn’t help potential buyers, and it will probably only hurt your review ranking, especially if you’re – in fact – wrong because I have seen this on a book where the characters were married, but (I’m assuming) the reviewer was mass reviewing erotica novels because it was against their personal beliefs. Amazon should not be your political or religious platform UNLESS the book is slated toward that discussion. Then again – on the contrary – I see nothing wrong with someone reading and reviewing a novel and stating something along the lines like “this book will not appeal to readers who are uncomfortable with premarital sex.” Just don’t go mass searching for these novels just to put them down.

And finally –

Complaining about another’s complaint

Haha. Yes, I just did it to myself. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. I am here, talking about the types I hate, but here’s the truth – readers are allowed to review a book for whatever reason they want to review it as. There is no rule that states your review has to be detailed or helpful to someone else, but I do believe Amazon asks reviewers to be helpful (and definitely not spiteful.) But I am amazed sometimes by the amount of drama I’ve seen unfold on someone’s review by other reviewers. If you think it’s spiteful, please report it to Amazon or Goodreads, but yelling at one another is getting us nowhere. We all have different opinions. I’m sure I’ve written a 5-star review on a novel that another reader thought was so bad it was insane. For all I know, someone is writing on their blog right now and using my review as an example as what not to do. But that’s okay because we’re all allowed our own opinions. That’s the beauty of it all! Just try to back up your opinion with sincere criticism and encouragement.

So those are my top types of reviews that I cannot stand as a reader. What can I say? I meant to do five, but I kept typing. Have you ever seen a review complaint that you couldn’t believe? As a reader, do they ever sway you one way or another?

Feel free to share below!

~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

Writing Tips: Character Profiles

12 Jul

Lots of announcements today before I share my thoughts on creating character profiles:

ShannonAThompson.com hit 17,000 followers! This is truly amazing, and I cannot believe that we’re continuing to grow. I started this little blog without any expectations, but if I had started it with expectations – I’m positive you have surpassed even my wildest dreams. Thank you for your continued support!

Other than that, I partook in an interview with Lit Chic. You can read what I think the hardest part about writing is, but I also have a shout out for all of my readers :D So click here to read the entire interview.

And if you are just now checking in and you’re curious about The Timely Death Trilogy, you’re in luck:

Hines and Bigham’s Literary Tryst reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2) – Mindy says, “If you are a Young Adult fan and love a book that can make you feel like you are part of the story and part of a different world you have to read this trilogy. I know I love it!” But I have to share her favorite part of book 2. This excerpt happens when Eric is talking to his guard about Jessica and deciding if he should tell her the truth.

“I don’t know how she’d take all of this at once, especially without proof.”

“So, transform in front of her.”

“And give her a heart attack?” I couldn’t imagine her reaction. “No, thank you.”

“At most, she’d faint.”

Read her favorite romantic moment as well as the entire review by clicking here.

If you haven’t read book 1, My Library in the Making reviewed Minutes Before Sunset this week, stating, “One of the top reasons why I enjoyed this book was all the conspiracies.” But you can read the full review, including her favorite quote and favorite scene by clicking here.

Hope you check out Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise! Your growing support is the ink in my typewriter. Without you, my words would be invisible.

Now, onto today’s post (thank you for sticking with me!)

Writing Tips: Character Profiles 

A few weeks ago, I wrote The Beginning of my Writing Process, in which I revealed many details about how I first start off creating a novel. In the comments, I found a fantastic question about building character profiles, so today – this post is dedicated to Taking on a World of Words. I’ll be discussing three key elements I focus on when building a character profile – something I do BEFORE I write a novel – and I will be using Sophia Gray, the protagonist of my upcoming novel, Take Me Tomorrow, as an example. If you are interested in reading my dystopian book, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com for an ARC.

1. The Basics

I suggest covering these first when taking down notes because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by trying to cover a vast amount of complicated information first. So – even though I know the complicated stuff first – I always begin taking my notes with the basics. This includes a small physical description, strong personality traits, and background. This is sort of like taking your driver’s license and adding your personality to it. If you like using pictures for inspiration, then grab some from Pinterest, and build from there. (And never be afraid to change things as long as you take note and edit it in your final draft.) Here’s an example of something you might come up with:

SEG

I don’t normally create photos such as that, but I wanted to show what can be done. Below you’ll find some information from my notes about Take Me Tomorrow. (I had to cut a lot of it to avoid spoilers, but this shows my organization process)

“Sophia (16) Sophia Elizabeth Gray

Physical: always wears her mother’s necklace, curly, brown hair, barely 5 foot, three small scars on her neck from Lily’s black cat, Saga. But she also has scars on her arms and legs from the forest.

Personality: loves running, close relationship with her father and Lyn, a stubborn heart. Prefers sweaters and jeans over dresses and heels.

Background: Born in Albany Region, moved to Topeka Region when she was seven, currently lives with her father, Lyn, and Falo.”

2. Timelines

Create a past, present, and future timelines. This is where things begin to get complicated, but don’t fret. Start simple – with everything you know – and make sure nothing contradicts anything else. From there, I would suggest figuring out things you don’t know (when did your protagonist meet their best friend?) Don’t forget: if you write it on your timeline that doesn’t mean you have to write it in the book, but it is safe to know everything and anything you can think of. I would even go as far as saying you should create separate timelines for each character while also creating one large timeline that shows overlaps between characters. Below is a VERY small example of Sophia’s past timeline. This includes the top five major events that happen before the novel ever takes place.

timeline3. Cover Everything 

I mean it. I know it sounds like a lot of work – and it is – but it will save you a lot of trouble in the end.  I create so many maps it’s ridiculous. I even have a “height’s map” which shows what characters would look like standing next to one another. Another example of a character map I had for Take Me Tomorrow is a map with every character’s home (past and present), and routes that they took from home to school to work (basically, anywhere they walked.)

Basically, you can never have too many notes. If you want to graph out the neighbor’s life who is never mentioned, then do it. In fact, you know the years that I picture Take Me Tomorrow to be in, but the actual years are never mentioned in the novel. Most of all, have fun! Never forget to have fun.

~SAT

goodr

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