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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

Enough is Enough. I am not ashamed that I read Manga.

6 Jul

Two announcements before I begin today’s post about reading Manga:

The Nerdy Girlie is giving away two journals along with an eBook of Minutes Before Sunset to one lucky winner. You can join the raffle until July 10 so click here, join, and good luck!

I’m also going to start putting the title at the top of my post after the separation between announcements and the articles, so they are easier if you don’t want to read my announcements. (But please do!) Being able to share my author life with you all means a lot to me, and your kind support is the extra boost of energy I need when the author life gets tousled around in chaotic troubles.

Enough is Enough. I am not ashamed that I read Manga.

So – originally – I was hoping to upload a new video to my YouTube Channel Coffee & Cats (since I haven’t in two months!) but I was unable to, so my plan didn’t work out, but I am planning on uploading a new video soon. That being said, I sat in front of my laptop last night, slightly panicking over which topic I wanted to talk about instead. If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know I’m a planner. I have dozens of pre-written blog posts for moments like this, but I just couldn’t share one of those today because I had this urge to share what is at the tip of my tongue, and that is Sailor Moon. If you didn’t know, a remake released last night all around the world. (And it was amazing!)

But Shannon, wait, you only blog about reading and writing…What does Sailor Moon have to do with that?

A lot…to me. Maybe not to you. But stay with me because I’ll explain everything soon.

You see – to me – Sailor Moon is more than just a silly cartoon that played in the 90’s. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was sitting on the floor in my grandparents’ living room, watching it on a little, old television that could be turned to black and white by opening a panel on the right side and twisting a knob. If you turned the knob too far, everything flickered to neon green. (I got a kick out of doing this!) After that first episode, I was hooked – or obsessed, however you want to say it.

Photo from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal website

Photo from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal website

At this point, you might still be wondering – Sailor Moon is a television show. Seriously, why are you blogging about this?

Because it has to do with some hard reading lessons I learned.

Sailor Moon, yes, started out as a television show for me, but I grew up, and it disappeared from daytime television shortly afterward. At some point during my preteen years, I remembered that show because I read Daughters of the Moon by Lynne Ewing (still one of my favorite YA series) and it reminded me of my once-loved show. So I went searching, and I found out it was a comic book. I did not know the word “manga” yet, and I definitely didn’t know how different (and more mature) the manga was compared to the show I watched as a kid. But I quickly learned after that.

I read every manga I could get my hands on. (And I hid this because I was embarrassed.) You see, I feel like manga has a worse reputation than reading YA as an adult – it’s something we should ashamed of. Adults don’t read cartoons. Teens shouldn’t read cartoons. That stuff is for kids. Blah. Blah. Blah. It goes on and on. And I will admit that I fell into this at one point. I even asked for gift receipts at the local bookstore because a clerk once said something about how he could never read something like that. What can I say? I was fourteen and impressionable. Now, that I’ve gotten over it, I can admit that I was embarrassed because I fell into reading bullying.

But enough is enough.

I like manga. I like it a lot. It’s currently one of my “go-to” reads, especially when I can’t afford novels (or the bookstore is closed because it’s two in the morning, and I need a break.) But I read it anyway. I read it because I like it.

I’ve only started admitting to reading it within the past year. Perhaps this is because I’m older, and I don’t see a reason to hide it anymore. (And now I’m ashamed that I hid it at all.) After all, grown adults read Spider-Man and go to the theatres to watch Iron Man – both of which are comic books – but I, somehow, convinced myself that manga was different, that it was childish and immature and weird.  And it’s not just me. When I started admitting to reading it, I had friends and family say the same things (ironically, as they were talking about the new Batman movie.) It was almost like Marvel and DC comic books are acceptable, but manga isn’t.

Manga is not weird or childish or immature or something we should be ashamed of. It’s just like everything else. It can have bad and good stories with great characters, mystical plots, and wonderful emotions.

To me, watching the new Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal last night reminded me of how strongly I feel about this subject. Even though it was an anime that I started with and not the manga, it turned me on to manga. (Warning. I’m about to fangirl like crazy.)

Seriously. If only Bogart looked like this.

Seriously. If only Bogart looked like this.

You see, Sailor Moon is more than Sailor Moon to me. It was independence. It was power. It was being graceful and strong at the same time. It was not relying on a man but also not hating on men. It was friendship AND love. It was wearing boots with heels on them. It was kicking ass, being equal, and finding strength within yourself while believing in the strengths of others around you.

Oh. And a black cat. (Seriously. If Bogart was female, he would’ve been named Luna.)

Stories are more than stories to fans. They make up intricate parts of ourselves and resonate in our every day lives as lessons, hopes, and dreams. No, my dream is not to wear a mini-skirt and fight the Dark Kingdom. But it is to be true to myself and fight whatever it takes to get there. To me, even though Usagi cries and whines at the beginning, she grows into herself and she always steps up to the challenge. Always. And she’s never selfish when it comes to her relationships with her various loved ones. (Unless you consider getting bad grades selfish…then, okay. I’ll give her that.)

So, go ahead – poke fun at the fact that I’m 23 and reading a manga or a comic book. You can’t hurt me. You can only hurt yourself but not giving various types of literature a chance. You might miss out a story that resonates with you for the rest of your life.

But if I had to be completely honest, the older I get, the more I don’t understand reading bullying. It’s pointless and destructive. Please don’t make fun of anyone for reading anything. Seriously. It is okay if a type of literature isn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean everyone else has to hate it. Read what you enjoy. Give new things a chance, and even if you don’t like it, don’t bully other readers. What if you bully the next J.K. Rowling, but that reader never becomes a writer because they are turned away from reading because of reader bullying? Let them read what they enjoy, and perhaps, you’ll both find new types you enjoy when you support one another.

~SAT

Writing Tips: Lovers

16 Jun

Writing Tips: Lovers

Read my latest interview by clicking here. I talk about fellow Indie authors who’ve inspired me, Take Me Tomorrow, and so much more!

The protagonist lover characters seem to follow these molds:

  • Gorgeous, mysterious, heart-striken male who cannot communicate his feelings until death is threatening separation, because of some past that has caused him to reject relationships in any form until he falls in love.
  • Stunningly pretty female who doesn’t seem to realize she’s beautiful, therefore causing her to be more desirable despite having no capabilities in regards to physical strength or mental strength. The only appealing part of them is their love and how they can support the male with their love.  

So I wanted to share three basic tips to deepening characters within their relationships, but the basic rule I follow is to show why they are uniquely beautiful in the inside and out to the narrator and to the reader. Let the “beautiful people” stand on their own beauty, let them define what “beauty” means to them, and create a beauty that is 3-D, that is rounded and deeply set inside of the characters’ hearts. This includes their unique features, gestures, speech, and more, but here are three examples:

1. Scars, injuries, birthmarks: 

Physical descriptions can, in fact, have a rounding out effect on a character, but these descriptions go beyond “brown hair and blue eyes.” For any character, scars and birthmarks can show a history written on their skin, but you can show this as an intimate thing between lovers. Maybe a lover is the only who has seen a scar or maybe everyone has seen it but the lover is the only one who knows the true story behind it. These little marks of history can be very telling. Someone may have beautiful eyes, but that time they fell out of a tree and broke their arm trying to save a cat tells about how caring they are of animals and others’ lives. It might even insinuate how they have a lack of fear of heights (or, perhaps, explain why they now do.)

Ex/ In November Snow, Daniel has a huge scar on his back, but no one knows what it is from until much later in the story. Serena isn’t the first to see it, but her curiosity about it showed a deeper concern for his past and health than other characters expressed toward him.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

This reminded of Eric and Jessica from The Timely Death Trilogy.

2. Gestures:

How do your loved ones show they love you? Think of the small things–the daily “How are you” can make all the difference. Maybe, in a time of danger, a lover would place a hand on the other to remind them they are present. It’s small, yet it tells so much. It says, “I am here. I am listening, and I’m aware that you are, too. I am here for you.” There is an endless streak of gestures – big and small – that people do to show how much they care, and gestures are a great way to define emotions in a relationship between people.

Ex/ In Seconds Before Sunrise, Eric automatically makes Jessica tea without asking her if she wants some or if she likes it. He already knows she does, but a part of him does this without even thinking about it because it comes naturally to him.

 3. Speech: 

Choose their conversations carefully. It seems to me, in young-adult especially, the characters are undyingly in love, yet they never have a conversation about their feelings, insecurities, and/or questions. They never ask the other what the other is thinking. I’m not saying that your characters necessarily have to do this literally. (Ex/ “Do you love me?”) I get it. There is normally a sense of tension in novels, so discussing love is removed for many reasons, so you don’t have to have a discussion about love, but let the lovers have deeper conversations. (Ex/ life, hobbies, past memories, etc.) Most characters – like people – will talk out loud, and choosing what characters discuss can define relationships early on – it may even define their relationship before they even realize they have one.

Ex/ In Minutes Before Sunset, in their human identities, Eric talks to Jessica without even realizing he is opening up about topics he doesn’t discuss with other people. He doesn’t act like it’s a big deal, but Jessica isn’t sure what to say because she realizes he doesn’t talk about it. On the contrast, Jessica tells Eric how she doesn’t like opening up to people. Ironically, admitting that to him was her way of opening up. She doesn’t admit this to anyone else. But in their shade identities, they both open up fairly quickly. Going back and forth between the two identities, their discussions become the main growing aspect of their relationship.

These are only three places to start, but there are endless possibilities to round out characters and their relationships with one another (lovers or not.) A great question for aspiring writers to contemplate is who their favorite book relationship included and why. Write down a list and figure out how to incorporate unique ways into your own stories.

How do you round out relationships? Who are your favorite lovers? Why? And if you’re feeling extra open, have you ever used real life inspiration for a fictional character’s love interest?

~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

men-women-holding-hands-hi

Ebook Release & Extras!

11 Jun

On June 12th, the ebook of Seconds Before Sunrise releases everywhere. But you can buy it on Smashwords today for only $3.89 by clicking here.

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You can win a Kindle from 7 – 9 p.m. this Thursday on Facebook by playing games and interviewing authors LIVE. AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. is releasing the ebooks of Seconds Before Sunrise, A Dangerous Element, The Dragon Three, and Birthright. Just click here.

As a little extra, I wanted to share pictures that reminded me of favorite scenes in The Timely Death Trilogy with little excerpts.

Scene (1) Flying Scene. 

This first picture reminded me of the first flying scene between Eric and Jessica. The chapter is told from Eric’s perspective, but I wanted to include it because Eric’s only enjoyment comes from taking flights with Camille and Pierce. When he’s with Jessica, it comes naturally to him, but – obviously – not to her. But it also allowed her to show how quickly she can learn.

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Minutes Before Sunset, Eric, page 47

She screamed as her feet left the ground, and we shot into the sky. Her petite hands tightened on my jacket, and I twisted us into circles, shadows spiraling at our flying feet. The air spun around our bodies, winding our clothes with every moment and change in the atmosphere. I hadn’t flown in so long, and I had forgotten how alive I felt when I did.

“Shoman!” She wriggled against my grasp. “Put me down. Let me go!”

“If you say so,” I said, dropping her.

She plummeted, falling from my grasp and through the clouds. Guess she couldn’t fly. In an instant, I shot after her trail of shadows, grabbing her before she even neared the ground. Abruptly, she silenced, and her echoing scream pierced the air. As she hung from my grasp, her purple eyes blinked up at me.

“What the hell, Shoman?” She gasped as I pulled her up, steadying her against my chest. She dug her nails into me and glared. “I did not mean literally.”

Scene (2) The Bat Scene – Why bats?

I love bats. I know. I know. Most people do not, and – believe it or not – my love for bats has nothing to do with vampires. When I lived in Georgia, I saw fireflies for the first time. My brother and I ran around the back yard to catch all of the fireflies when a bat came out of nowhere and ate one right in front of me. The crazy part was how close it got to my face before taking a 90 degree turn and flying straight up into the air. When I looked up, there were dozens of them, and I’ve been in love ever since. But this isn’t the main reason I wanted bats to be in Minutes Before Sunset. I explained the main reason on Ky Grabowski’s blog, but here are the basics: the trilogy is based off of dreams I had and real events that sparked from those dreams. One morning, when I had a dream, I ran outside, half-expecting to see the people in my dreams, and I ran into a light storm settling over the sunrise, bats flying around in circling waves.

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Minutes Before Sunset, Eric, 208

She arched her neck, flicking her gaze over the mediocre spring shower. Thick raindrops fell from the sky, splashing against the water, and rain glittered against her hair. “I don’t see anything,” she said, turning back to me, but I pointed back up.

“Now you will.”

Bats, hundreds of them, circled and dipped, dove and flew, twisting through the air as they collected their dawning breakfast. She sucked in breath, and the gasp between her lips brought shivers to my spine in the same way the image of morning bats had when I first saw them as a child.

Scene (3) The forest

Since I shared the photo during my last post, I wanted to share a scene that showed the forest’s opening that leads to the Dark’s shelter. This forest is scene numerous times throughout all three novels, but the biggest moments (I feel) both happen at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset and Seconds Before Sunrise. In MBS, Eric sees Jessica for the first time. In SBS, Jessica is looking back for Eric without really realizing it.

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Seconds Before Sunrise, Jessica, page 4

I froze, gripping the cooling metal, and my blood turned into chilled water within my veins. I stared at my shivering hands and slowly brought my eyes up to the forest. The entrance was right in front of me, opening up to darkened brush and thickened ground. I only saw shadows, but I believed I could see more. A figure lingered in my memory, a vanishing outline in the darkness, even though no one was there. I fought the urge to shout at the trees.

Robb touched my shoulder, and I jumped. He stepped back, his eyes widened, and Crystal honked from the street.

“Jess?”

“I’m fine,” I repeated, brushing him off as I rushed past him. I didn’t want him to see my face. I felt like I was crumbling, and I didn’t want my friends, or anyone, to know it. My confusion was mine, even if it was bordering on insanity.

Perhaps I’ll post character profiles soon! I’m really enjoying sharing my Pinterest inspiration here, but I’m most looking forward to the eBook extravaganza this Thursday! I hope you all come. You can talk to me live, and you can win a Kindle!

~SAT

The Timely Death Trilogy Explained: World-Building and More

9 Jun

With three days until the eBook of Seconds Before Sunrise releases, I’ve been wondering how to celebrate it, and I think I found a way, but I wanted to give a little update first. As many of you know, The Timely Death Trilogy was finished a long time ago, but I have worked on extensive editing. In fact, all three of the novels were around 136,000 words until I got them down to 80,000. Since receiving my content edits for Death Before Daylight a few weeks ago, I’m about 17,000 words into the final piece. But there’s also a new project looming on the horizon that I could’ve never saw coming.

I may have finished writing The Timely Death Trilogy in 2009, but I never thought my other characters would want to tell their story. Here and there – between editing all three books – a small voice came to me that I didn’t recognize. And then another voice came, and I began taking notes. Suddenly, I realized what characters the voices belonged to: Jim and Kimberly.

If you’ve read the trilogy, you might recognize “Jim” (He also goes by Bracke or Mr. Welborn.) Kimberly, on the other hand, has not been mentioned by her first name – Eric’s mother. Despite knowing her past – including what we will learn in Death Before Daylight – I have never heard Kimberly’s voice before. In fact, I had never heard Jim’s either. Especially from when they were kids.

So I’ve currently been working on a prequel.

I don’t know if I will publish it. I don’t know if I will even finish it. But I wanted to mention it because I thought it would be a good way to lead into today’s post:

I am often asked many questions about the details of my paranormal world, including cultural significance and supernatural capabilities. Although most (if not all) of the information is scattered throughout the stories, I thought it would be fun to share extras to everyone – especially if you are an avid reader of my blog but haven’t had a chance to read my books. Hopefully, after today, my references to shades, double identities, the Naming, and more will make sense now. I am also sharing photos from my Pinterest board for The Timely Death Trilogy to add to the explanations. (Click here for the full board to see even more.)

Disclaimer: there might be a few spoilers here and there.

How the Paranormal World Exists with the Human One:

Double Identities:

Almost every character in The Timely Death Trilogy has two identities – a human identity and a paranormal one, but no one knows one another’s identities.

Example: Eric Welborn is a human, but he transform into a shade named “Shoman.” No one is supposed to know that Eric is Shoman or that Shoman is Eric. However, Eric’s guard, Camille, knows both of his identities, and he knows both of her names. Camille’s human name is Teresa.

This is how the “Light” and the “Dark” coexist during everyday, human life. As humans, no one truly knows who the person next to them can be: a light, a shade, or just human. (I will explain how their physical appearance changes below.)

Cultural Significance in Paranormal World (Rituals)

The Naming Ceremony:

Shades do not have Dark names at birth. In fact, they don’t even have their full set of powers. The only power they do have is the ability to transform. But everything changes when they turn 13.

b7a349b151148bb4cf546c94763b24bfThe “Naming” is a ceremony done during “the last harvest” – an evening that usually takes place in January for the Dark. (Yes, the Dark has their own calendar.) Every 13-year-old at the time enters the meeting room where they receive their Dark name and some power. Boys are given glitter to throw, and girls are given crowns. But they must vow themselves to the Dark before they are told the prophecy. Once this happens, the shades receive their full powers, and the “Naming” is complete.

In Minutes Before Sunset we see Pierce’s little brother named, “Brenthan.”

So why the crowns? Why the glitter? And what is with the age and order of events?

Well, this is one of the biggest pieces I want to write the prequel for, but it goes back to when the bloodline first appears. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say this: the crown represents an important figure, and the glitter showcases all the different colors that “Dark” powers contain: mainly blue, green, white, and purple. Each color also stands for a different type of power, blue = warrior, green = guard, white = elder, and purple = well…that is one of the bigger surprises in Minutes Before Sunset.

Defining the Paranormal Beings:

Shades – What can they do? What do they look like? 

745226b2e50da562533a3bb7fc8e87beShades are members of the Dark. First and foremost, they can transform into shades, mainly at night. For the most part, their powers are confined to nighttime hours. However, they can use their telepathy at all times, including when they are human (although this does take a lot of practice.) When they are transformed, shades can transport in and out of shadows, shoot beams of power at one another, and even fly. But only the descendants have swords. Yes. Swords.

Shades have gray or very white, sometimes stone-like, sometimes translucent skin. They’re eyes are also light-colored in nature, and the color normally correlates with their dominant power color: blue, green, purple, or white. For instance, we see white eyes with Eu, green eyes with Pierce, blue eyes with Shoman, and purple eyes with Jessica. (Before you think I spoiled the fact that Jessica is the “nameless” shade, it says so on the back of the book, and she practically says it during her very first line.)

They always have black hair or very, very dark brown hair.

But there’s one vital rule to remember: when shades transform from their human form, more than their eye color and hair color change. Their entire body changes, including facial features, height, and more, but it also goes beyond that. Personalities, and ethnicities can change – ::future book hint:: – even gender is subject to change.

Create (Human) Relatable References for Paranormal World:

How do genetics play a role?

There are the “Light” beings (a.k.a lights) and the “Dark” beings (a.k.a shades.) But there are also halfbreeds, which are always half-Dark, half-Light. A halfbreed’s child will only have powers if that halfbreed’s partner is a fullbreed Dark or Light. On top of this, the way a halfbreed is brought up (in the Dark or in the Light) is unique to each halfbreed, but the Light does not name their halfbreeds.

Although the Dark encourages their members to find their romantic partner as a shade first, some go against this rule and find their romantic partners as humans. This obviously can cause a lot of problems. Obviously. But these are the very basic fundamentals of how things work: The Dark and the Light have dominant genes over human genes unless their genes mix together. If they mix, the “power” gene then becomes recessive to human traits.

One dark + one dark = dark

One human + one dark = dark

One dark + one light = halfbreed

One halfbreed + human = human

One halfbreed + dark = dark  

Unions between the Light and the Dark are definitely frowned upon, and how couples find each other is explained in Seconds Before Sunrise. There used to be rearranged marriages, but that changed two generations back, which caused the bloodline to come back (hence Eric’s birth.) This is also something I will show in a possible prequel. Now, most members meet loved ones in the shelter before later meeting their human sides. As of now in the trilogy, it is unknown to the protagonists if anyone has had a happy Light and Dark union.

Worlds inside a World

The Shelter vs. The Light Realm

fbe2dacc94e4a7696471958a9936c578The Dark members have the shelter. This is – quite literally – a shelter, and it is almost all underground. As readers know, Eric’s mother killed herself when Eric was five years old. She killed herself in the main forest in Hayworth. Because of this, Eric’s father buys the park, and he closes it off to everyone else (although Crystal, Robb, and Jessica trespass in the beginning of Seconds Before Sunrise.) The dense forest opens up in a few places, but the forest has a cave, and this is where the original shelter was created. I would explain how it is hidden from humans but that is discussed in Death Before Daylight. As Eric says in Minutes Before Sunset, “At first, the shelter was made up of two offices, a nursing room, and one training room. Since then, it had grown remarkably, and I couldn’t even guess where it ended.”

The Light has the Light realm. Yes. A realm – a place that humans can never go. Quite unfair, isn’t it? Unfortunately, I cannot explain this one at all. Not yet. But I will say this: all of your questions about where lights and shades and prophecies come from are answered in Death Before Daylight, and the secrets reside in the realm. If you haven’t read the trilogy yet, you do see this realm in Seconds Before Sunrise. And, yes, I’m terribly sorry for all of the readers who have wanted and begged for so many more details on the creatures in book 1 and 2. When you read book 3, you will understand why I couldn’t explain everything. I know. I know. Waiting is awful. (But it will be worth it. Promise.)

So what’s the key to world-building? 

Believe in it and have fun! Create the world your characters deserve, share the world with your readers, and keep at it. World-building can take enormous amounts of time and energy, but enjoying the exploration can be one of the best parts of writing it. I, for one, cannot WAIT to share more information about the world in The Timely Death Trilogy, especially considering how many answers are about to be revealed.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

~SAT

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.”

2a

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!

The Top 10 Seriously Awkward Conversations I’ve Had When People Hear I’m a Writer

5 Jun

Two announcements before I share my awkward conversations:

The book trailer for Seconds Before Sunrise released. Check it out on YouTube by clicking here. Remember: the eBook releases June 12th! AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. is throwing a VIRTUAL launch party on June 12th from 7 – 9 p.m. (CDT) to celebrate, and you can win a Kindle as well as many other prizes. You can also interview me live :D Click here to join.

Also, you’ll notice that my progress bar has been updated on the right side of my website. The black marks on the “Death Before Daylight” bar represents 10,000 word marks. We’re officially past the first 10,000 words! And we continue into the future with high hopes.

Being an author can be a crazy, fun, and maddening adventure. As Robert De Niro once said:

robert-de-niro-oscars-2104-quote-about-writers

From lorelle.wordpress.com

That’s what I was thinking about the other day when I fell into conversation with someone about my writing career. They asked something I haven’t been asked before, “What are the strangest questions you’ve been asked during interviews?” I had to think for a bit because I haven’t really been asked strange or awkward questions in interviews. (I think this is because interviewers are prepared to ask an author questions.) But I have been asked strange, downright bizarre questions – mainly by strangers in passing who find out I’m a writer, and I thought it would be fun to share some of my moments today.

Disclaimer: in the defense of the interrogators, I rejoice in awkward moments. I’ve enjoyed every little second of these conversations – even when they didn’t. Let’s start with the obvious one first:

1. “You’re a writer?”

“Yep.”

“Cool.” Unnecessarily long pause as the speaker (normally) glances up at the ceiling for no particular reason. “So what do you do all day?”

…I write.

2. “Do you write those dirty books?”

There’s nothing quite as dirty as being asked if you write “those dirty books.” What an unsexy synonym for erotica. Even worse is what people say after you reply no. I did not need to know how your sister, mother, and aunt read Fifty Shades of Grey during Christmas dinner. And I definitely didn’t need to know that you let your current girlfriend borrow your mother’s copy. Without your mother’s permission. Stop your anecdote now. Please. Before you say the word “dirty” again.

 3. “Did you write Twilight?”

“Is that a real question?”

“Oh….uh, I guess not.” (Another long pause that causes me to wonder why everyone pause so much) “Do you write books like Twilight? Like with sparkly vampires and shit?”

“I write in the same genre, but no vampires.”

“Wait. There’s an entire section for that?”

“Genre, yes. There is.”

“Is it titled Vampire Fiction?”

“No.” This is when I start questioning whether or not I already mentioned that I don’t write about vampires and why everyone brings up Twilight every day when they supposedly hate it.

4. But why would a twenty-year-old want to write about teens?

Because high school was the best time of my life.

(It was unbelievably painful to write that sentence down.)

I don’t know why a twenty-some-year-old enjoys writing about young adults. Why would a sixty-five-year-old want to write about dragons and direwolves? Because I like to. And my characters’ ages don’t define them or their readers. Hence why Harry Potter was read by pretty much everyone and their cousin.

5. Can you put me in your book?

Sure. But you might not like it. (You probably won’t like it. You’ll also wind up dead.)

6. Did you base that character off of me?

Normally, this is asked by friend or some other kind of close relative that shares the love of reading with you. Depending on the character in question, you might be tempted to say yes, even if it isn’t true. Your lover might even ask if you based the protagonist’s love interest on them. This could be a trap. This is probably a trap.

7. Why are you pro/con (insert controversial political or religious topic here)?

I’m sorry – what? Just because my character carries a gun on his right hip or gets an abortion or believes God isn’t real, doesn’t mean that I do these things, let alone believe in them. In fact, I don’t have a lot in common with many of my characters.

Exhibit A (The Timely Death Trilogy): Eric is a boy. I am not. Jessica can paint. I cannot. Pierce is funny. I am not.

Exhibit B (November Snow): Calhoun lost his arm in a POW accident. I did, too. Wait. No. No, I didn’t.

Forget about exhibit B.

8. Who’s the bad guy? Also known as, please tell me the biggest spoiler in your story before the story is even close to released.

Sure. But make sure your cell phone is ready. I want to make sure you Tweet about it before you post it on your Facebook wall and share your screenshot to your Instagram. #spoiler #Iknowtheauthor #forreals

9. Can you publish my book?

“It isn’t written yet, and I have no idea who the main character is, but there’s a girl in it, and she falls in love with a boy, but he doesn’t like her back, and then she finds another boy, and the boy (the first boy) comes back and realizes he loves her, and he confesses to her, and she leaves the boy (the second boy) to be with the first boy only for the first boy to change her mind before she goes back to the second guy and the first guy regrets it forever until they meet up again in the future and she’s still with the second guy but the second guy isn’t really interested anymore so she wants to start over with the first guy and he wants to try to but he feels too guilty about the second guy still being there so the girl starts to think that she should leave the second guy first before she gets with the first guy but she’s also afraid she will lose her last chance if she does, so—“

Email me. Please. Seriously. I actually like to help writers. But…standing by my table in a coffee shop as I finish up my editing is not the way to go about it. I’m a chatterbox. I am. But the one time I don’t talk is when I’m writing. I’m sorry, but I can’t just help the second you appear. I’m not the fairy godmother of publishing. I wish I was. If I was – trust me – more of my novels would be out. Your novels would be out, too. But – alas – the fairy godmother of publishing was not my destiny. However, I do like to help when I am available, so feel free to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. I will help you as much as I can.

10. Is your protagonist a brunette because you’re a brunette?

You caught me. That’s why my female protagonist in November Snow was blond. I used to be blond, and there’s nothing like having the same hair color that screams, “Team work!”

…Oh, wait. I wasn’t blond? Really? Not even once?

Hmm, I have to reevaluate.

Those are the top 10 awkward (interesting?) questions I’ve been asked. They may not be completely awkward, but I did find myself enjoying every moment of them. If you’ve ever been asked questions you never expected to hear, share them below!

~SAT

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