#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

11 May

Intro:

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

#MondayBlogs: The Mental Health of Writing

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

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

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

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

“How can that be?”

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

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

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

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

Guess what—I’m not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio:

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

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: Authors, Be Yourself

9 May

#SATurday: Authors, Be Yourself

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

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

So what does this have to do with you?

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

beyou

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

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

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

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

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

~SAT

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

Thank you for the announcement, Boo Boo.

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

#WW Love Triangles

6 May

#WW: Love Triangles

Opening note:

I’m trying to create more YouTube videos, and this is one of my first ones where I discuss a fiction opinion over my channel, Coffee & Cats. I’m more comfortable writing my thoughts because I feel like I can express more, so I am trying this format: an article that goes along with the video. But I want your opinions. How can I improve? Should videos be separate from www.ShannonAThompson.com or do you like a sister article to support the video? What topics would you like to see next? I’m mainly leaning toward talking about movies and books I love on my YouTube channel, but any and all opinions are appreciated. Today is an experiment, so I need your help.

Thank you!

Coffee & Cats: Episode 14: Love Triangles:

What are love triangles and why don’t I like them?

Love triangles are nothing new. It normally involves one person who loves two people at the same time, and more often than not, there is a “who do I pick?” tension connecting all of them together. They are immensely popular, especially in YA, so why do we keep seeing them over and over again? Well, for one, they are popular. For one, it’s an easy way to create conflict. And for three…well, love triangles arguably go the whole way back to the bible, so it comes to no surprise that they are so embedded into our culture and no surprise that we keep continuing to explore them in literature and others medias

So why don’t I like them?

I’m not a fan of love triangles. Well, let me reword that. I’m very picky when it comes to love triangles. Why? Well, mainly because love triangles lose me. It’s difficult for me – personally – to believe in fully loving two people romantically at the same time…wait for it…especially when they end up choosing one and completely walking away from the other. I actually think it would be really interesting to see more polygamous relationships discussed in fiction, for instance, since I’m not against loving more than one person at once in fiction. Like I said, I hate the “choosing” factor. I find it the opposite of lovable. But love triangles as they stand now (most of the time) want me to believe in one person undyingly loving two people and not knowing which to choose, and this entire situation makes me extremely uncomfortable for everyone. No one should ever be a on the back burner, just simmering in someone’s else’s heart. That’s not love to me. That’s awful.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 10.43.25 AM

Are there any exceptions?

I definitely have exceptions. Like I said, I’m not completely against love triangles or loving people at the same time in fiction. What I’m against is the concept of “choosing” but still claiming to be undying love. That being said, I do have exceptions. One major one for me would the love triangle in Delirium by Lauren Oliver. (Spoiler Alert) When Lena believes her love is dead, she falls in love with someone else, but then…of course her first love isn’t dead. (End Spoiler Alert) So bam! Triangle. I don’t mind this. In fact, I like this. It’s believable, relatable in that she honesty wouldn’t have done this if it weren’t for the circumstances sort of way, and exciting – in the sense that we now have conflict. So, yes, there are exceptions, and I also wanted to touch are a MAJOR exception for me.

What’s a “like” triangle?

Now that I’ve probably spent too much time debating a love triangle I wanted to talk about a literary trope that I think I just made up. A like triangle. I love these. When characters come together and one character likes people but isn’t sure if they love any of them or love one more than the other, I enjoy it. I enjoy the development, and I like watching “like” grow into love. We could always discuss that “instant love” or “instalove” right now, but I think I’ll save that for next time.

What do you think?

~SAT

Minutes Before Sunset now up for pre-order!

Minutes Before Sunset now up for pre-order!

#MondayBlogs: When Writing is Not All You Do

4 May

Intro:

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

When Writing is Not All You Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio:

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

Book & Blog

Want to be a guest blogger? I would love to have you on! I am accepting original posts that focus on reading and writing. A picture and a bio are encouraged. You do not have to be published. If you qualify, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com.

~SAT

#SATurday: The Secret Garden of Trees

2 May

Announcement: 

From now on, one lucky winner will receive any eBook under $5.00 from Amazon every month. How? Well, every week, I post a Dark Member of the Week, and out of those members that month, one of them will be chosen for the monthly prize. Basically, the more you participate, the more your name gets entered into a giant, black cauldron – where the elders then work their magic to pick the winner! If you want to become a Member of the Dark, please email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. You are not required to do anything, and I will never give out your email. I will only email you during special events – like cover reveals or release days – and based on your participation, your website might be chosen as a Member of the Week. Those members are shared on The Timely Death Trilogy FB page and Twitter, and out of those spotlight winners, one of them will win the eBook prize. All April Members of the Week will be entered into the May lottery.

Good luck!

#SATurday: The Secret Garden of Trees

Let’s talk about trees for a moment. Why? Well, because I love them, and I often share my love for them on my Facebook and during my monthly Website Wonders – like these posts A Majestic Cathedral Made of Living, Breathing Trees, 12 Amazing Tree Tunnels You Should Definitely Take a Walk Through, and 16 of the Most Magnificent Trees in the World.

I’m not sure where my appreciation and admiration for trees began, but the first tree I remember loving was an old pear tree at my grandparents’ home. It was the only consistent home in my childhood, seeing as I moved around constantly while regularly visiting my grandparents during the summers and holidays. Mainly during Christmas. Which is why this pear tree memory stands out.

It was either the fall or spring, during that time of the year where it’s too cool to be summer and too warm to be winter. It was night too – which is even odder considering I can tell I’m very young, mainly by my lack of height in the memory. Everything was much taller than it should’ve been, and I have a feeling I shouldn’t have been outside, but I always have been a bit of a rebel, a bit of an explorer, a bit of an obsesser. When I get focused, I can’t get unfocused, so it’s highly likely that I snuck out – off the porch and around the bend to the place that I can only describe as a secret garden of trees (at least, in my child’s mind).

trees

In truth, it was a makeshift grove, tucked away at the corner of the house, sheltered by the brick walls and a stone patio. The pear tree encompassed the little lot, and it hid a cracking, cement birdbath, something that equally fascinated me despite the fact that I never saw it being used. Even so, I loved sneaking into this spot, and almost every time, my mother caught me and told me I wasn’t allowed back there – something about it being right next to my great grandmother’s bedroom.

I probably only snuck back there a few times, but I still remember lying on the damp cement – staring up at the pears and the light spotting on them through the leaves – while fallen pears rotted around me. Nothing at all could’ve bugged me – not even the bugs – and I find that many trees have that effect on me.

Later in my life, we had a Dogwood tree, and a blackberry tree, and a willow tree, and a forest of all kinds of trees near me – at separate times but near me nonetheless. This morning, I noticed my neighbor has a red flowering tree – something I haven’t been able to see until recently considering I moved in during the winter. The colors are appearing – one at a time – all over my walk from my home to the coffee shop where I often write, and I am taking note of all the trees that accompany me along the way, and if I had to say anything at all, I’m just glad not every beautiful tree is locked away, tucked away, or hiding away in a secret garden.

~SAT

April’s Ketchup

29 Apr

April’s Ketchup

I don’t know about you all, but April brought Missouri uncountable thunderstorms, rain showers, and book news! (Hehe.) Changes to my Ketchup posts have been made. This time I’m including my YouTube videos and my Dark Members of the Week. In May, I have a bigger surprise for Members of the Dark, so be sure to email me at shannonathompson@aol.com if you want to join!

For those of you just now checking in this month, Ketchup actually means “catch up”. At the end of every month, I write these posts describing what goes on behind the scenes at ShannonAThompson.com. Some of the topics I cover include my big moments, top blog post, my top referrer, SEO term, and more in order to show insights that will hopefully help fellow bloggers see what was popular. I also hope it entertains the readers who want “extras” for this website.

Thank you for being a part of my life this April!

Big Moments:

The cover for Seconds Before Sunrise released! And – WOW! – was it an exciting day or what? Not only did we get to see Eric on the front cover, but we also got to enter a giveaway for Minutes Before Sunset and see the new bookmarks I received from Clean Teen Publishing (which – I’m signing for readers, by the way.)

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

The Timely Death Trilogy is coming back in full-force – all Dark and exciting. The editing and the interior is brand-new as well, and I will be sure to keep everyone updated. I also returned to YouTube, so you will see those links below as well as an increase in my “posts” number since I include those. What an exciting time to be a Member of the Dark!

My #1 Referrer was Facebook

My #1 Referrer was Facebook

Top Three Blog Posts:

1.My Weekend Cover Reveal: It’s here. It’s here! And there is even more exciting news to come. More prizes for Members of the Dark. ::winkwink:: I’m so glad you’re enjoying the cover reveals and other news about The Timely Death Trilogy. Expect the last cover and additional events soon.

My #1 Clicked Item was my Donate Page

My #1 Clicked Item was my Donate Page

2. Writer Problems (1-5): I am doubly excited that you all love these! I’m on #12 via my Facebook and Twitter right now, but I’ll be sure to write additional stories that goes along with them when I share 6-10 in May.

3. Rejected? How to Keep Submitting: Keep writing. Keep trying. Never give up!

Other Blog Posts:

My #1 SEO Term

My #1 SEO Term

Guest Post:

YouTube Channel:

At the end of the month, I also like to take a moment to thank all of the websites who supported me by posting reviews, interviews, and features. I also like to specially thank the Members of the Dark. Every week, I award one member a “Member of Week” badge, and out of those monthly members, one of them will win an eBook of their choosing as well as more prizes. If you would like to be a member or review my novels or interview me, please send me an email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I always love speaking with new bloggers, writers, and readers! And I will share your post on all of my websites.

Dark Members of the Week: Book Gannet and Macy Avenue

Reviewers:

Death Before Daylight: Reader’s Corner

Interviews: Little Birdy Book Blog and Chris Pavesic

Calculated on April 27 at 19,643 followers

Calculated on April 27 at 19,643 followers

#MondayBlogs: Website Wonders

27 Apr

Website Wonders: 

Every month, I share all of the websites I come across that I find helpful, humorous, or just awesome. Below, you’ll find all of April’s Website Wonders categorized into Writing, Reading, Travel, Coffee, and Art. If you enjoy these websites, be sure to follow me on Twitter because I share even more websites and photos like this there.

Enjoy!

Writing:

Random Name Generator: For those who need help with naming characters

12 Techniques to Improve Your Writing in 2015: Solid

Reading:

42 Random Harry Potter Facts That Will Make You More Knowledgeable Than a Ravenclaw: Are you a Ravenclaw?

10 Nonfiction Books to Blow Your Mind: Because I adore nonfiction

7 Books That Will Change How You See The World: A great list with memorable quotes

15 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once in Their Life: Which ones have you read?

12 Great Books (And The Perfect Mood to Read Them In): I love book lists.

The Ten Greatest Fantasy Series of All Time: Any of your favorites on here?

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Travel:

10 of the Most Magnificent Trees in the World: Because we know Shannon is secretly obsessed with trees.

Three Future Scenarios for Romantic Love: possibly my favorite article out of this entire bunch. This is sort of travel? Travel to the future.

Coffee:

The Best Time to Drink Coffee According to Science: Do you follow these rules?

Which Profession Drinks the Most Coffee: I’ll give you a hint. Writers and editors aren’t in the top three. (WHAT?)

Art:

Just Look At The Stunning Detail in These Mini Painting and Try to Not Be Impressed: Amazing! I’m impressed.

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed these website wonders! See you with more next month!

~SAT

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