Tag Archives: writing tips

Writing with Barbie

19 Apr

Prepare for laughter during today’s post. But – before we get onto the giggles – I want to share two important bits of news.

Paris Carter reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, stating, “The novel also includes several internal struggles for Eric and Jess that sparks tension throughout the entire novel, and it’s the chaos of them struggling to work out their answers and fight themselves that bring Shannon’s novel to a second dimension.” Read the entire review here or check out his review of Minutes Before Sunset first.

I also participated in an interview with Doodles, doodles everywhere. We talked about what hurts me the most as a writer, and I expanded on the research that went behind The Timely Death Trilogy. Check it out.

It’s been a few days since I participated in my first podcast interview, but I wanted to write about something fun since my last post was rather dreary. That’s when my mind immediately returned to The Lurking Voice. (Just a small, Kansas City update though, they found the Highway Shooter, so things feel a lot better around here. Maybe that’s why I’m so eager to post something I can laugh at…I mean, laugh with you…as you laugh at me.)

Back to the topic.

If you listened to the full interview – which you can by clicking here – then you know that I confessed to many writing strategies that I haven’t mentioned before, although “strategies” will quickly turn into a debatable term during this post. My ultimate, reluctant confession happened when we discussed November Snow, my first published novel.

I was 11 when I started writing it and 16 when it was published. It’s safe to say that it isn’t my best work, but I am planning on re-writing it. As we were discussing this, Ryan Attard asked a great question. How does a preteen plan a novel out? That’s when I said it.

November Snow was based on a game that I played out with my Barbie dolls as a much younger kid. Now, if you’ve read November Snow, then you might be concerned, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned – (I think.) That’s what I told my high school teachers anyway when I was asked about the dark nature of it. But that’s another story for another day.

Today, I wanted to share a funny truth to November Snow. No matter how dark the story is, many of my characters were actually based on the dolls I used. I admitted to it on the podcast, and now I am re-confessing it on here. Even better, I dug through some boxes, and I found the old toys, so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from the novel that proves this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

November Snow is a young-adult, dystopian novel, and it is told from dual, first perspectives: Daniel and Serena. Unfortunately, I lost the Serena doll (she might have lost a limb or two or maybe even a head.) But I still have Daniel, who you will see soon. I’m going to share three pictures, and each picture has numerous characters on it. Below each picture, I will have a one-sentence background, and below that, I’ll be sharing the real excerpt from the novel. I’ll also include page numbers as well as who was telling the story at the time (Daniel or Serena.) I am also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I even think I’m lost, but trust me – it’s organized. Hope you chuckle as much as I did writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

First picture: from the left to the right: Robert, Daniel, and Calhoun. 

theboys

Robert: 19, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“I turned around to see Robert’s dark brown eyes staring at me, and my heart lunged into my dry throat…He muttered something, his brown hair shagging in his face, and I laughed. “ (Serena, 156-7)

Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of?

Daniel: 18, leader of the Northern Flock (all around hunk)

“The guy looked like Daniel. He had the brown, muffled hair and tanned skin. He even had the blue and white jacket down, but he wasn’t responding to his name.” (Serena, 181)

Note: So, if you didn’t notice, I even based some clothes off of these toys.

Calhoun: age unknown, Daniel’s mentor. (kind of a hard ass)

“From the bottom step he could have been mistaken for a modern-day giant. His face was strong, as were his muscles, and he looked like he could barely fit into the sweater he was wearing. He had been in a POW accident, in which he had lost one of his arms, but he refused to tell the story. Normally, he had a fake arm in, but tonight, a gray sleeve dangled at his side, blowing in the chilled November wind.” (Daniel, 25)

Note: if you listened to the podcast, then you know this character actually ended up being very similar to my real father. Except my dad has both arms. And he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike.

Second Picture: from left to right: Daisy and Maggie

girls

 Daisy: 16, member of the Southern Flock (I hate her.) 

She doesn’t deserve a note or description. Seriously. Have you ever hated your own characters so much that you regret bringing them into existence? I think Daisy might be in my top three of characters I’ve created and despised. #authorproblems.

Maggie: 16, member of the Northern Flock. (crushes on Adam in private)

“The front door opened, and Maggie walked in. She was wearing a small, pink coat and white disco pants that had gone out of style a century ago, but she still pulled them off easily.” (Daniel, 240)

Note: is it just me or is Daniel incredibly aware of fashion trends?

Third picture: from left to the right: Amy, Justin, and Marisa

Now for the youngsters, the category of characters that caused one of my high school teachers to ask if I needed to talk to someone after she read my novel and discovered only a few of the characters survive. (Seriously. It’s on the back of the book…) From left to right, we have Amy, Justin, and Marisa.

kids

Amy: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Amy.” Her name is Amiel Marie Young.) 

“Amy’s hair was tied back in a French braid.” (Serena, 144)

Note: So this was more of a hairstyle thing, and you can’t really see it in the doll anymore, but it was there. I promise.

Justin: 6, member of the Southern Flock (borderline obsessed with hockey)

“Justin, blond-haired and brown eyed, was whisked off his feet by the collar of his shirt.” (Daniel, 479)

Note: There’s actually a hockey scene in the book just for this hockey-themed doll. (I really have no shame as I share this, do I?)

Marisa: 7, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam.)

“A small girl struggled her way into Adams’s lap and leaned her bony elbows onto the table. She had long, brown pigtails that rested on the wiggling table and innocent eyes.” (Daniel, 44)

Note: The hair is there. The hair is totally there.

So there you go. My young-adult novel that almost got me in trouble as a teen was originally created during playtime as a kid.

Try to figure that one out.

I sure haven’t.

~SAT

If you want to check out the collector’s first edition, click here.

If you want to check out the collector’s first edition, click here.

 

Writing Tips: Dealing with Controversy

17 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can writers do when they face this issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~SAT

Editing Tips

15 Apr

My publications picture has been updated:

All of my publications. :D

All of my publications. :D

Thank you for your support. I am looking forward to adding to the collection as time continues forward. I also want to take a moment to thank Taking on a World of Words for uploading the picture below to Instagram. They received Minutes Before Sunset in the mail, and she shared the moment with me. These pictures mean a lot to me, so please check out her website.

instambs

As of right now, I am working on editing my next manuscript. (It’s not Death Before Daylight, but that is coming.) I am looking forward to revealing more details about my next manuscript in the future. However, that day is not today. It is tomorrow. (If that sentence seemed strange, there’s a reason for that. You just read my first hint, and that hint reveals a lot if you’ve been with me for a while…or are willing to search through some posts.)

Aside from that, working on this manuscript has reminded me of some editing techniques I have never shared before. Today, I’m sharing my methods that I consider to be unique. However, I will not be talking about the stereotypical ways to edit: read out loud, read backward, and read it again. Okay. We get it. Read it many times and read it in different ways. Having a beta reader and hiring an editor is obvious. I want to discuss editing beyond this because we neglect the unique methods writers use to rewrite and edit. We always talk about how writers all write differently, but we never talk about how writers edit differently. I will also be sharing comments from my Facebook author page.

So we are starting with a completed manuscript. It is written, and “The End” appears at the bottom. But it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a new process. Depending on the writer and the story, this can be a place where someone completely rewrites a story or where someone just starts an editing job. I am going to write about editing as if we aren’t doing a complete rewrite. The first piece isn’t unique necessarily, but I need to explain it for the other pieces.

1. Create “Final” Notes

I call it “final” because it means you can’t change it after this. Writers have to make a decision, and they have to stick with it. Personally, I make dozens of “final” pages which I actually keep separate from one another so I don’t mix them up. These pages include a final background page for the characters history, a description page that includes physical, emotional, and habitual uses, and finalized maps, so I can make sure that all of my facts are lined up. On my description pages, I even include things like common speech patterns (like if they call a certain character by a nickname only when they are annoyed.) These pages are pages, not one page or one paragraph. I normally have these before I start writing, but – let’s be honest – things change while we write, so it’s often important to go back and make a clear decision on how old that side character was when she met the protagonist (and I check it every time it is brought up in the story, even if I’m pretty sure I’m right.) In my most recent manuscript, I actually kept numerous description pages, because their descriptions changed halfway through the story, but it’s completely up to you how detailed you want to be. I’m sort of a perfectionist, but I will share a story below that explains why I am that way and how these pages saved me.

2. Shoebox Method

I shared this on my author Facebook page, and that’s where I got the idea to write this blog post. I am not a writer who edits on my laptop. I can’t. I need the physical pages in front of me because I think it makes it easier to see everything. Because of this, I have a stack of papers that I must lug around. Most would suggest a three-hole-punch notebook or a folder. I slam my hand on my desk and scream, “Enough.” (For those who watched my poetry reading on YouTube, you might find that statement humorous.) This is what I use:

edittt

I use a sliding shoebox. I never have to punch holes, number pages, or worry about dropping my folder and causing a paper explosion of a disaster. The shoebox also fits other notes, like a dictionary or my “final” notes I was just talking about. Believe it or not, this is also a fantastic excuse to start a conversation in public with potential readers. Someone is bound to ask you why you have a shoebox with you. Take that minute to share your elevator speech and grab a business card out of your back pocket. You just meet a reader.

3. Love Your Office Supplies: Colored pens, sticky notes, etc.

Now that you have the manuscript in front of you (and hopefully a cup of coffee), you are staring at the black and white words with nervous excitement. I used to just grab a pen and go at it, but that turned out to be a mistake when I went back to see what I changed, moved, or corrected. I never use a black pen to edit. The black pen eventually becomes something my eyes skip over. I use red for grammatical errors I come across, but everything else gets its’ own color, too. For instance, I might assign a blue pen to mistakes in the characters – like if I got their history wrong or even if I want to check it later on – but I used purple when I want to move an entire paragraph or scene somewhere else. When I’m moving something, I use sticky notes to mark the place so I don’t forget. We, as writers, never know when we’ll have to take a break, so it’s best to have all the relevant notes in place for when we return. We can’t tell ourselves we will remember because we won’t always remember. Think of all those great ideas we had when we were away from our computers that we later cursed ourselves for because we didn’t write it down. You don’t want this to happen while you’re editing, so write away and write a lot. When I am moving a scene, I even put a check box next to it, so I can check it once I move it.

4. Act Your Scenes Out

Now, if you read my Facebook author page, author, Ryan Attard, said, “Read out loud. Act it out. If it FEELS right, then you’re set. Then, it’s just rereading to correct content.” I love that he said this because I participate in this in many ways. If you want to read more about it, I wrote Writing Tips: Method Acting a while back. I scream my dialogue at myself in the car. I jump around my room and pretend to be different characters. I use place-holders to see if the scenes work, meaning if the characters are facing in the correct directions. (This is where my maps come in handy.) I wouldn’t want my character to storm away to the kitchen by turning to the left when the kitchen should be to his right. Little things like this can matter. For instance, I had a reader realize that the kitchen in the Welborn house is on the second floor during the second novel, Seconds Before Sunrise. She actually went back to the first book, Minutes Before Sunset, to check it and found out that she had read over the information but it was there. If I had changed it, she would’ve caught it, and that would’ve looked like the world wasn’t real.

5. Here are some other answers from authors on my Facebook Author Page:

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

Join me on FB, and your website might be shared next!

I asked, “Do you have any unique ways of editing? What makes it unique? How do you approach editing? This can be a content edit or a grammatical edit.” And here are some responses:

Anthony Stevens: After one or two content edits, where I try to assure a logical flow to the tale, I give it at least two days (sometimes a week) to simmer. When I’m ready, I take my time and slowly read it outloud to myself. Anytime I find myself stuttering or it just doesn’t sound right, I drop back a few paragraphs and try to sort out the problem. It has to sound right out loud before I’ll continue.

Nadia Skye NolanI have an editing checklist. It reminds me to eliminate passive voice and taglines as well as “Lazy descriptors.” I go through my writing and just cut away all the fluff, then I turn it over to my friends and family.

Alexis Danielle Allinson: I do the first couple of edits to weed out errors in my story line, add detail and such. Then I hand it to an editor who doesn’t balk about giving me his 2 cents worth so that the story can be better. We sometimes have lengthy discussions about things I have not written yet because he points out that even though each novel I write is its own story they are all interconnected and if I don’t have it plotted just right I will create a paradox that fan will never forgive me for.

Do you have any methods that stand out? Any advice? Be sure to share below. You might even win a chance to become a guest blogger.

~SAT

Author Confessions on my YouTube Channel

3 Apr

ShannonAThompson.com hit 15,000 followers! Thank you for continuing to support my writing dream. You are the reason I can share my stories with the world. You are the reason I have met so many wonderful readers, writers, and dreamers. You are the reason because you are the dream. From my dreaming soul, thank you. 

15000

Ever wanted to write a love story? Have you written a love story but want to see how other writers have done it? I’m really hoping you answered “yes” to one of those questions, because you’re in luck! Read to Write Stories is a fantastic website that literally explains how to read to write stories. Michael Noll reads a story and then creates a prompt in order to write a story. Recently, Read to Write Stories wrote  “How to Write a Love Story” with examples from Seconds Before Sunrise.

If you’re interested in reading a review of Seconds Before Sunrise, The Bookie Monster released their thoughts, stating, “I’ve found that the success of trilogies seems to be contingent on how well the second book is received.  If the second book is a disaster, readers don’t want to waste their time waiting and reading the third book.  If the second book is a success, readers will stand in line to wait for the third book.  I think that this trilogy definitely falls into the latter category.  Bravo Ms. Thompson!  You are on your way to having a very successful trilogy on your hands!” Read the entire review by clicking here.

I told you. I did it. I have a YouTube channel, which I have recently named “Coffee and Cats” - and I posted my first video. I have more waiting to be uploaded, too, so I am excited to venture out into the YouTube world. This will be my only video with an intro. If you subscribe, you will actually get to see my videos one day early. That’s my little gift to those who click the big red “subscribe” button. (You might also get dibs on being a guest. Hint. Hint.)

Today, we’re talking about Author Confessions – those little (and sometimes embarrassing) secrets authors have. So, get behind the scenes, check it out, and tell me your secrets in the comments below here or there. Mine might just involve weird hats and frogs…Okay. So they involve weird hats and frogs. I’m not sure how else I can tempt you. Temptation has been activated.

I am working hard to be able to afford a better camera, so any donations would be greatly appreciated. I am also planning on using my camera for helping authors and readers online, but that news will have to come out later :D I hope you enjoyed my first video. This is just the beginning of another, exciting journey.

~SAT

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

What Changes From the First Draft to Publication?

20 Mar

With the release of Seconds Before Sunrise only one week away, I have been thinking about how much The Timely Death Trilogy has changed from the original version to the published novels. Since the second book isn’t released yet (but is available on Amazon) I thought it would be neat to share some of the major changes that happened in Minutes Before Sunset from the original version to the final publication. That way, when the second novel is out for a little while, I can share those changes, too.

Now, as many of you know, there are many drafts of one novel – sometimes a lot more than what writers want to be reminded of. The changes you are about to read about happened over a series of rewrites and edits, so that’s why there are so many changes. If I had to guess, there was one absolute rewrite and an uncountable number of edits. I had about six beta readers on the original versions of the trilogy, but I had three on the version read today. This isn’t my norm. This just happened because I wrote the novels between 2005 and 2009, so Minutes Before Sunset had seven years between writing and publication. I had many opportunities to refine it both as I was writing the last two novels and when I went back the last time before its second version was published. But – alas – here we are:

Length: Be open to cutting it down (or even expanding it!) 

For me, most of my novels are 136,000 words, but I almost always cut it down to 80,000 by often combining scenes and characters or by cutting them out completely. Minutes Before Sunset was my first instance where this happened, and maybe I’ll share cut scenes one of these days, but they might not even work anymore with the current storyline. I actually love cutting down the word count. It challenges me to create more meaningful scenes, and it definitely forces me to push the plot forward with numerous reasons (like action and detail) rather than having separate chapters for everything.

Character names: (It’s okay to change names. Just have a purpose)

Jonathon isn’t sure how he feels about this.

Pierce (shade form of Jonathon) isn’t sure how he feels about this.

I’m sure why this one stuck out the most to me, although my guess would probably stem from the fact that I still see them as their original character names. So why change them? I’ll get to that in a second. Below you’ll see a small list of original character names followed by their publication name.

Colton changed to Noah. Brent to Jonathon. Jonathon to Pierce. Brethan original had both a dark and a human name, but now he is only referred to by his Dark name. Jessica had a Dark name as well. And Eric’s previously girlfriend is almost impossible to remember how many changes she went through.

These changes happened for many reasons, but they mainly happened to keep a character distinct from one another. I couldn’t have a “Brent” related to a “Brenthan.” I mean, I could…at first, I wanted it that way because they were brothers, but I realized I could play on identities in a more psychological way rather than physical name. In the future, I will write more tips on naming characters, since I’ve done it before. Fun fact: a lot of editors/publishers changes character names to be more memorable. My publisher didn’t do anything like that, and I’m really happy I got to keep my “common” names for my human characters, like Eric, Jessica, and Teresa – because the normalcy of their names was intentional, allowing their paranormal names to be more effective, like “Shoman” “Bracke” or “Eu.”

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

A lot changes in editing, but it mainly happens during rewrites.

Location: It can be really hard to change this, but it can also be worth it. 

Kansas – Originally, I wasn’t going to have a town at all. (Of course, there would be one, but it wouldn’t have a name, and I definitely didn’t want to mention the state.) At first, I wanted this town to seem like it could be anywhere, but then I realized it could seem that way while still being physically located somewhere, so after much consideration, I went with Kansas for many reasons, mainly because I don’t feel like many novels take place in the Midwest, especially paranormal or YA books.

Events: Don’t be afraid to add or take scenes away.

The Naming – the ceremony at the beginning of Minutes Before Sunset was actually added last minute. It was in the trilogy, but it was shown much later. I decided to show it in the beginning because I realized it could help ground the rituals of the Dark while also showing where the identities happen.

The ending – I actually don’t want to spoil too much, but the actions Jessica took in the final scenes with Darthon originally didn’t exist. The way to kill him wasn’t in it either. But she’s a fighter – more than most characters actually – and I knew in the editing that I had to include her in the fight. Plus, it allowed a foreshadowing for the third novel I’ve been dying to add without changing the story too much.

Other than that, a lot of dialogue changed and a few character appearances weren’t originally there. I even flipped a few chapters around and cut out other chapters completely. But it all ended up being the same story – I just needed to edit it to find out where certain scenes actually took place.

Perspective: Another difficult area to change.

At first, I showed Jessica’s shade side, but in the rewrite, I choose not to show her paranormal perspective in the first novel. She originally was named at the end of the first novel, too, but it didn’t feel right for reasons that will be explained in the third novel, Death Before Daylight. (Dun. Dun. Dun.) I also wanted to show a few scenes from Darthon’s perspective, but I never wrote one, because he’s a loud mouth. His identity would’ve been revealed in seconds. That doesn’t mean I didn’t consider it during rewrites, though. It just didn’t work out.

Other: Have fun with the small stuff, but it can shape a character.

I already wrote about cars, but Eric originally drove a 2009 Charger instead of an older version. Mindy had a more important role (I even considered having her completely aware of the Dark and the Light) in the first novel. And some of the characters’ descriptions changed. Surprisingly, the attitudes of the characters didn’t change a lot through the first novel, but they do later on! In my other novels, I have found that my characters have chanced dramatically from one version to the next, but this trilogy is an exception, probably because I wrote the second book first.

My changes in the first novel actually heavily impacted the changes in the second novel, and I am looking forward to being able to share that with everyone once the second novel has been released for some time. In fact, I think most manuscripts change a lot from the first draft to the final piece. I actually had to look a lot of my changes up in my notes from the first draft because it becomes difficult to remember everything that you discard or morph into something new.

What about you? What has changed from your first draft to your published work? I feel like this has an endless array of possibilities, but these are just a few of mine. I would love to hear about your novels and manuscripts. Share below!

~SAT

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

Writing Tips: The Five Senses

18 Mar

Special thanks goes out to actress, director, and dancer, Gracie Dzienny, for quoting my first novel, November Snow, on her Twitter. She is known for her work on Nickelodeon’s Supah Ninjas and multiple shows on AwesomenessTV. Visit her YouTube channel by clicking here.

Grace

 

nice

“This is a story of forbidden love, hidden love, and a war of love.” Find out why Endless Reading said they can’t wait to read Seconds Before Sunrise in the latest review of Minutes Before Sunset by clicking here.

I wrote this post in a way I don’t normally do so. Below, I ranked the five senses from easiest to hardest in terms of including them into a story – which was a task in itself because I kept questioning my order – and then I choose a random chapter in the middle of two of my novels – Seconds Before Sunrise (SBS) and November Snow (NS) – to tally my use of the senses. So the tallies might seem contradicting because I wrote the post before I collected the tallies to see if my perception was the same as my reality. Then, below that, I have a quote from those of you who commented on my Facebook author page.

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

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

But I want to add one last thing: there are many novels that do not include one or more of these senses for many reasons, mainly novels that cover blindness or deafness. Although those novels are very strong, I am dealing with the average novel that cover all senses in order to explore which senses are the most and least difficult to use so that we can analyze our styles together in order to improve in our five categories. But I want to thank those writers who have written novels with blind, deaf, or other protagonists in those various fields, so thank you.

#1 Sight

I’m not sure many will argue this being the easiest, especially if the novel is in first person. We see from the character’s eyes – and we see a lot. Whether they’re looking at road while driving or searching a library for answers, their eyes are working to keep the story moving forward.

Tally: Since both of my novels are from first perspectives, I decided not to tally this one at all because it’s practically every other sentence.

Paul Davis: “Sight is the easiest by far. I think it’s really easy to forget touch and smell.”

#2 Sound

I decided to forget about dialogue in order to really study this sense in reading and writing. If I included dialogue – just hearing someone speak – then this would probably be like number one, but I thought that was too obvious. However, I am including the way someone’s voice sounds, but I mainly wanted to hear thunder or creaking doors or a television rattling on a stand as a train zooms by an open window. Because of this, I did not include dialogue associated sounds in the tallies.

NS: 11: “Trees brushed against each other to the never-ending music of the crisp, November wind.”

SBS: 6: “…a rush of sounds consumed my senses.”

Alexis Danielle Allinson: The easiest I think is sound as we are taught to familiarize a sound with a distinct description from an early age.

#3 Taste

I think this was the first one I wrote down. For me, taste isn’t necessarily the hardest sense; it’s just the least likely used. A character needs to be eating or kissing or in an accident or a vampire or something along those lines to be reminded of taste.

SBS: 5 “I opened my mouth to speak but spit blood out instead. He wiped it away, but I tasted it.”

NS: 2 “A stream of salty water drove down my cheek to my lips.”

Alexis Danielle Allinson: Taste is the hardest as everyone does this different from each other.

three

#4 Touch

At this point, I have moved the five senses around on my list so many times that I don’t even know if this is where this sense originally started, but alas – this is where it ends up. For me, touch is a debatable and difficult area. Sure, characters can “grab” something, but that doesn’t necessarily make it “touch.” I feel like touch must be how rough a surface is, how cold someone’s skin is, how gravel coats hands with powdery dust. Touch isn’t a verb. Touch has texture or a sensation. 

NS: 13 “My lips were still tingling.”

SBS: 8 “The suffocating air was filled with electricity, and it burned against my exposed flesh.”

Aurélia Evangelaire: And still as a writer, the easiest sense for me to use is touch. I like the feeling of things under hands and I love to describe it.

#5 Smell

Oh, god. This exercise is not easy. At this point, I realize I didn’t know how hard it is to choose which sense goes on what ranking. You think you do until you try. It was really difficult to choose the most difficult, but I finally went with smell because smell, in many ways, is like taste. It’s limited in the sense (haha, see what I did there?) that it’s difficult to include this sense without it seeming forced. It’s often rare moments a character takes the time to “smell the roses.” Just like real people, their lives are hectic – they may even be chased around by enemies – and it’s often the slower, more intimate moments that they have smell. This goes to say that I just had another instance where I realized how the senses change dramatically over genres. I feel like smell, taste, and touch are much easier and more important in romance, especially erotica, but those same senses may not be at the top for things like sci-fi, especially if they are in a space suit that prevents all kinds of smells.

SBS: 11 “The smell of smoke broke through the blood dripping from my nose.”

NS:5 “The rusty smell of whiskey split the air.”

Phillip Peterson Smell, I think, is the easiest and most useful. It’s more of an all-encompassing scent to the scene, which, if done well, can most effectively put the reader into your world (as smell is the most connected to memory).

ts

Those are my five senses as well as a few other writers’ senses.

It was a fun exercise to write down what I thought about the five senses before going through my novel to tally away. In the end, this allowed me to see the difference in my perspective and in reality. (Like how I used smell a lot more than taste.) I definitely recommend writers try this out themselves. I realized quickly that senses change dramatically from novel to novel. For instance, the setting in November Snow is very dirty and dangerous, so sound and touch were actually HUGE. Taste? Not so much. But Seconds Before Sunrise was nearly the opposite. Then again, these were only passages. It would take me weeks to analyze the entire novels, but I still think this is worth it.

You must be tempted by now.

You must be tempted by now.

What about you? Did you try this exercise? Do you have certain senses you use more? Ones that you avoid? Were your results different than what you thought they would be?

Comment below!

P.S. “Look Inside” of Seconds Before Sunrise is now up on Amazon! Check it out by clicking the book cover on the right :D

~SAT

February Ketchup

28 Feb

ShannonAThompson.com hit 14,000 followers!

Thank you. Bogart and I really appreciate your support. We often sit in front of the lap top together, gazing at the screen as if something magical might happen. When we hit 14,000 followers, something magical did happen, and it was exciting for both of us. (I, for one, was glad Bogart was able to refrain from sitting on my keyboard during this time.)

fun

The Journey of Two also reviewed Seconds Before Sunrise, stating, “When the battle finally comes it won’t be anything like you think…I finished the book in three days and I’m certain it could be devoured in even less. The pace is handled perfectly, the action and flow move forward seamlessly. The climax is satisfying and yet not completely whole, leaving readers primed and anxious for the next installment.”

I gave in. I had to call this new segment “Ketchup” instead of “Catch-up.” Oh, word play. How I love you.

But, yes, today is a new day that I will post at the end of every month. It basically outlines every post of that month so you can see if you missed anything you’re interested in. I will also show the most popular posts according to my viewing stats at the top. So enjoy!

Top Three Posts: 

1. You Have Committed Copyright Infringement: content from my novel was copy and pasted into other writers’ stories. This is what I did about it – it also outlines what writers and authors can do to prevent this from happening.

2. Readers Hating Other Readers: too many people are getting picked on for what they read. We need to stop this by encouraging positive reading environments.

3. My Insecurities and How I Overcame Them: Everybody has insecurities. This is how I overcame mine, especially those that I cannot change.

Writing Tips:

Dual Perspectives: Should Characters Have Equal Time to Speak? Both of my published novels are told from two perspectives. This is how I decided who got to speak more.

For the First Time in a Long Time, I Struggled with Writing and This is What I Did About It: When I was invited to submit to an event by The New York Times, I was ecstatic. Then I saw the topic, and I dropped out. Find out why.

Help: I’ve Returned to an Old Piece of Writing and I Can See Influences From My Past: I am already working on my next novel to get published, but I saw influences that I hadn’t seen before. This post helps you overcome these instances.

Thank you.

Thank you.

Helping Authors: 

How Readers Surprise Me: Favorite Quotes: In an interview, I was asked how readers surprise me. This was the number one topic I have dealt with and how I’ve embraced it with excitement.

Why I Love My Facebook Author Page: Facebook is getting a bad reputation with businesses recently. This is why I still love it.

My Author Life:

Author Announcements (1): I received my diploma, hit 100 ratings on Goodreads, and my novel was voted for on NovelUnity.

Author Announcements (2): my 30-Day countdown began, the first review of Seconds Before Sunrise, and website changes.

Book Trailer Tuesday: Minutes Before Sunset now has a book trailer.

Other:

February’s Entertainment Reviews: I reviewed 7 movies, 5 novels, 3 playlists, 1 cooking recipe, and a dancing cat toy.

This photo reminded me of “shades” in The Timely Death Trilogy. Photo by ddictator.

This photo reminded me of “shades” in The Timely Death Trilogy. Photo by ddictator.

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

20 Feb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are three thoughts that helped me through this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are two fantastic answers,

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

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

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

~SAT

Writing Tips: Family Variety

27 Jan

Two points before we start on today’s topic:

The other day I realized I haven’t even hit the one-year mark of the release of Minutes Before Sunset, yet I’ve already had so much encouraging support. Because of this, I’ve added a Reviews page for The Timely Death Trilogy. Check it out, and you’ll see a variety of fellow authors and bloggers who’ve read it. Thank you for taking the time to write a review after reading!

This brings me to my other announcement. The Paris Carter reviewed Minutes Before Sunset, and you can read the entire review here, but here’s a teaser: “Shannon A. Thompson is able to hold your attention to the plot with a refreshing story than the average young adult novel filled with romance and a few over the top scenes. This novel focuses more on action and suspense than actual romance. This novel is great for anyone looking for a quick young adult novel that still has a great plot and characters.”

Today’s topic:

Everyone’s family is different. Some people have siblings, parents, and grandparents – some don’t. Some people are raised by their family, while others find all of their role models elsewhere. There are so many types of family members and how they all link together and work together. In one neighborhood, there are stepparents, adoptions, half-siblings, and uncles raising their nephews as sons. Variety isn’t just prominent in the physical relationships – it’s also in how someone decides to raise children or how family members interact with one another. Every family is different, and novels should show this – it will add believability, and it will also allow more of the readers to relate to the story. Below, I will share my experiences when creating different family types in Minutes Before Sunset and why I chose certain types for specific characters. (All pictures were created by FreeFlashToys – Stick Figure Family)

Instead of focusing on one family at a time, I am going to organize this post by different family types.

Stepfamilies: “It’s been calculated that about one in three of us is involved in a step-family situation.” - Net Doctor

I only have one of these in The Timely Death Trilogy, but it’s one of the protagonist’s families: The Welborns.

Eric’s family is probably the most complicated of all of the families. Before the novel, it was Eric, his father, and his mother. Then, his mother commits suicide, and his family remarries a number of years later. He then gains a stepmother – Mindy – and a stepbrother – Noah.

I wanted to show this for many reasons, one being that stepfamilies are very common nowadays. But there was also an emotional line I wanted to have in the novel. In Minutes Before Sunset, Eric struggles to understand his mother’s death as well as how he’s supposed to be connected to a family unrelated to him. I wanted this relationship to be symbolic to the division of humans and the paranormal creatures (in this case, shades.) This happened when Eric discusses how his stepmother and stepbrother are human, while he isn’t – causing a divide that both sides cannot see or  understand.

Eric Welborn’s family

Eric Welborn’s family

Single-Parent Families: “One out of every two children in the United States will live in a single-parent family at some time before they reach age 18.” – Health of Children

Single-parent families are defined by children being raised by a parent who has been widowed, divorced, not remarried, or never married. I managed to get all of these into the story, although we only see Eric’s father as a single-parent (widowed before he was remarried) in the first few pages. Jonathon – Eric’s best friend – would be the divorced situation. His mother left and never came back. Crystal – Jessica’s best friend – would be the never married situation. Her father is completely absent (and her mother isn’t around that often either.) Through their actions in the first book (and the next two to come) readers will see how their family situations have affected them. For instance, Jonathon is like a second father to his younger brother, Brenthan. But we’ll get into siblings in a minute.

Single-Parents Homes: Dad or Mom?

I know. I know. I just talked about this, but I wanted to add one more diverse part to consider: single-parents can be (and are) mothers AND fathers. Although it has been more common for mother’s to raise children alone, the single-father households are growing (according to this article by The Wall Street Journal.) This was personally something I couldn’t find in novels. I was in a single-parent household, raised by my father, and I remember wondering why I couldn’t find that in many novels when I was younger. Because of that, I was sure to have both situations in Minutes Before Sunset. The Hutchins – where Lola raises her daughter, Crystal – and the Stones – where George raises his two sons, Jonathon and Brenthan.

The Stones

The Stones

Siblings: 

There are so many different kinds of siblings, kids who are close in age and far apart in age, kids who only have sisters, and kids who have both sisters and brothers. There are step-siblings and half-siblings. But all of these types fall under siblings.

In Minutes Before Sunset, I have characters who have full-blooded siblings (Jonathon and Brenthan), half-siblings (Zac and Linda), step-siblings (Eric and Noah), and characters who don’t have siblings at all (Jessica, Crystal, and Robb.) But, like the other topics, having a variety is key to shaping a character’s personality and background, but their relationships can always change throughout the story.

Adopted: In 2008, 135,813 children were adopted in the US in all types of adoption – CreatingAFamily.Org

Like I said above, not everyone has parents or grandparents to take care of them. In this case, I wanted to show two different kinds: raised by adoption and raised by the community. After her parents died in a car wreck, Jessica was adopted when she was a baby. In another situation, Camille – Eric’s guard – was ditched by her parents. She was raised by the Dark as a community. She doesn’t have a traditional system at all.

Pets: Pet ownership in the U.S. has more than tripled from the 1970s – The Humane Society

I REALLY wanted to have them in the trilogy, but it just didn’t work out. However, there are pets in my other works. November Snow has a “pet.” Serena is constantly around a squirrel.

Pets was not the only thing I couldn’t include. There are so many types of families I didn’t have room for (military, grandparents, uncles/aunts, twins, etc.) But I am excited that readers will learn even more about the diverse range of backgrounds my characters have in Seconds Before Sunrise (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy.)

After writing this, I want to add one more thing. 

BgoartReaders have different kinds of families, and it can often be difficult for readers when they can never find families similar to theirs in any novels. Personally, I had this problem growing up, so maybe this is why I try to add as much variety as possible. When I was younger, my family included my dad, my mom, and my older brother. At one point, we lived with my grandfather, but then, my mom died. A few years later, my father remarried. I had two stepsisters and a stepbrother. They divorced later, and it’s been my dad, my brother, and I ever since. (Although my brother is getting married soon – yay for sister-in-laws!)

I shared my personal story for one reason: different kinds of families aren’t uncommon. Changing family types isn’t uncommon. But I think variety can sometimes go unnoticed in novels (either by the reader or the writer.)  This is my attempt to share why I try to include variety – I think it’s important for both readers and writers – and I hope you’ll consider adding more variety and/or sharing how you’ve already added variety in your novels.

~SAT

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

Donate to ShannonAThompson.com

Writing Tips: Details: Fantasy Transportation (Guest Post – Charles E. Yallowitz)

18 Jan

Shannon, here, for an introduction: 

If you checked out my last post, then you know about my new series: “Writing Tips: Details: ____.” I will be periodically posting about the little things – how to choose something like a wardrobe for your character. Last time, I spoke about vehicles, and that’s when Charles E. Yallowitz blew me away in the comments. As a high fantasy writer, he doesn’t deal with cars, but he still took the time to see the correlations between the cars and other transportation methods he has had to decide. By broadening the discussions, I knew he had to have his own slot – his own posting – and I offered him today’s place. Below you will read tips from Charles E. Yallowitz – and who knows? – maybe your added commentary will be the next one chosen to keep the discussion going.

Fantasy Transportation: Horses, Griffins, & Everything In Between

My name is Charles E. Yallowitz from the Legends of Windemere blog, and I’m a fantasy author.  First, a thank you to Shannon A. Thompson for allowing me to write this guest post about modes of transportation in fantasy.

It’s a rather interesting subject because many believe the sky is the limit with this, but there are things to consider when choosing a fictional mount.  Unlike modern vehicles, you don’t have a wealth of information about the inner workings and evolution of the cars.  Choosing a 1967 Chevy Impala over an Aston Martin DB5 requires different research than choosing a griffin over a hippogriff.  Some might say no research is required beyond knowing the difference between the beasts, but part of this connects to world building and character development.  I’m big fan of lists to keep things organized (and avoid me getting sidetracked by shiny ideas), so here we go:

1. Size of the Rider - In my series, I have a gnome named Fritz Warrenberg who rides a sheep.  Due to his height and weight, this mount is perfect for him.  Yes, he can ride a horse with some control, but he would have trouble if it panics because he wouldn’t have the strength to take command.  On the opposite end of the spectrum, you don’t put a towering barbarian on a riding sheep.  (Not unless it’s for comedy or the characters are going to be eating mutton in the next scene.)  So it is very important to compare the physical abilities and description of a character before putting them on a specific mount.  This can also help develop some of the cultural habits of fantasy beings because modes of transportation are one of the essential pieces to a society.  For example, a species that uses a flying creature for mounts might live in the mountains or have an economic structure around delivery services due to faster speeds.

2. Confidence and Experience of the Rider - Animals sense the emotions of the person trying to control them.  I know this from experience and suggest to never panic while riding a horse that happens to be a jerk.  A rider gains confidence through experience, which denotes what kind of rider they are.  For example, Nyx in my stories is a sorceress who grew up in the city and learned how to ride griffins instead of horses.  So, she constantly has trouble with horses and is either awkward or bucked.  This is primarily for comedy and character development, but it can be used to decide on if a character can use the mount or not.  Many times an author will have every character know how to ride to make things easy, but taking the confidence and experience into account can create more depth to them.

rsz_1allure_final_cover3. Temperament of the Mount- One of the big differences between a car and a riding beast is that the car can’t think for itself.  (Apologies to Knight Rider.)  A horse can have any temperament and we have those in reality, so they are rather easy to adapt to whatever situation you’re working on.  Panicky mares, unshakeable battle horses, and playful ponies are fairly common.  Things get trickier when you move to the fictional mounts because it is up to the author to pick how they act.  You can give them the same variety as a horse, but it helps to give them a baseline of attitude.  Griffins (my favorite if you haven’t noticed) can have a basic temperament of caution or standoffishness with a new rider that evolves into something bigger.  More destructive creatures, like dragons, can be the type to turn on a rider at the first opportunity.  There are ways to cheat here like magical control or the ‘raised from birth’ connection, but animals have natural instincts that should be taken into account.

4. Terrain of the World- One of the reasons horses get used most of the time in fantasy is that they’re versatile.  Yet, they have their limits such as thick swamps, pathless mountains, large deserts, and oceans.  You can still use them for some of these areas, but you have to factor in the dangers and slow progress.  This is where boats and mount choices can come in handy.  Camels and donkeys are alternatives for difficult terrains as are flying mounts and personally designed creatures.  An example of that last one could be a large, multi-limbed monkey with long hair to hold while it swings through a dense jungle.

5 Technology of the World- There are fictional worlds with technology more advanced than ours.  Magi-tech is an example where magic is used to create high tech within the traditional fantasy realm.  Most times this is something that most of the heroes don’t have experience with, so it requires a set of characters specific to them.  A common mode of fantasy-tech transportation is the airship, which can be powered in whatever way the author designs.  I prefer magic, but I’ve seen steam, coal, and absorbing lightning in storm clouds used.  The key to designing something like this is consistency and creating believability.  These modes of transport can remove the animal issues from a traveling section of a story, so the ‘mount’ doesn’t have a mind of its own.  You can throw in mechanical failures for suspense as well.  An added bonus here is that this opens up more of the world’s progression to the reader.

6. History of Taming- It is easier to go traditional with horses and the like, but you can work nearly anything into a mount if you design a history of taming into it.  Orcs can ride rhinos, elves can ride bears, and almost any other combination as long as the author has it established.  A character shouldn’t be able to simply jump on any animal and ride it without an issue.  There has to be some level of taming within the species for it to be viable.

Charles E. Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz

7. Be Creative and Have Fun- This might sound like a strange suggestion, but the benefit of being able to work outside of make/model/year transportation is that an author can flex their imagination.  If you want to go beyond what’s already out there then take the previous rules and design your own creature.  Nobody can really say your winged hippo with lightning breath can’t exist in a world of fiction.

Again, thank you to Shannon A. Thompson for letting me write this fun, and hopefully informative, guest post.  Hope everyone enjoyed it.

You can connect with Charles E. Yallowitz at his blog – Legends of Windemere – or check out his novel, Legends of Windemere: Allure of the Gypsies, on Amazon. 

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