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#MondayBlogs Dear Writers, 2017 Can Be Your Year!

21 Nov

This year, I had three writing goals.

1. I wanted to sign one of my books during a Barnes & Noble event.

2. I wanted to attend a book convention as an author (booth and all!)

3. I wanted—and this one I thought I’d never reach—to receive a full request from a literary agent.

I’m proud to say I reached all of these goals and more. In fact, I’m going to break my experiences down and explain, but trust me, there’s a reason for this article beyond just me and my goals, so stick with me for a bit.

First, Goal 1. Barnes & Noble! I hosted not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Barnes & Noble signings, including a Valentine’s Day Romance Author Event in Wichita, Kansas and BFest in Kansas City, Missouri and Overland Park, Kansas. There was nothing like signing in a Barnes & Noble my late mother took me to as a kid, where she used to tell me I could write a book one day. It was priceless.

How was this accomplished? To be honest, no one in my hometown ever returned my phone calls. Not once. I was terrified of calling Barnes & Noble after quite a few disinterested phone calls and e-mails and in-person meetings. Then, CTP author Tamara Grantham invited me to her local B&N during the VDay Event in Wichita, Kansas. This is a five-hour drive for me…and I work a night shift. But you know what? I jumped at the opportunity to attend. And that one event opened up all the other stores to me. Now, I have a great relationship with one right down the street from my new house. (And I write in there all the time.)

Barnes & Noble Events

Barnes & Noble Events

In regards to Goal 2, I attended not one, but TWO conventions as an author. The first one being Penned Con in St. Louis, where I shared a booth with the wonderful Natasha Hanova. The second convention was Wizard World Comic Con in Tulsa, Oklahoma…where I also had the AMAZING opportunity to be a panelist on Villains vs. Villains. On top of that, I have plans in the works to attend more next year. This was an opportunity I never planned nor saw coming, but I’m eternally grateful for it. I had a blast! (And now I’m the owner of a Pusheen plushie and a Sailor Moon blanket…and a cat T-shirt…and fudge…) I also attended a writer’s conference—The MWG annual conference—and I went to YALLFest in South Carolina as a reader.

How was this accomplished? Anyone who has ever attended a conference knows it takes planning. In fact, most conferences ask you to buy your booth a year in advance, which I did with Penned Con in St. Louis back in 2015 when I attended as a reader to see if I liked it or not. The person sharing my booth changed three times, but it all worked out in the end, and I had a blast! Out of the blue, I was invited to Wizard World Comic Con through Genese Davis, who knew…Tamara Grantham. (Tamara is the best, can’t you tell?) I never expected to be a speaker, and here I was, driving five hours to speak about what makes characters evil. Spoiler alert. Worth it. But more than half of these events weren’t planned, so keep your mind open!

Conventions and Conferences

Conventions and Conferences

So now, we come down to the agents. The reason I said I never thought a full would happen is because I haven’t traditionally queried since 2007…and a lot has changed since then. I set out to challenge myself by joining competitions and making connections. Much to my surprise (and shock), I received my first full almost right away—in the first week of February—and I’ve had the utmost joy of working with a few agents ever since on numerous fulls and even a few revise and resubmits.

How was this accomplished? I joined every online competition/opportunity I could to reach out to the writing community. Honestly, even if you’re not looking for an agent, these competitions are the bomb. (Does anyone say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) I love them, and I plan on joining more of them if I can in the future. That being said, most of my fulls (and even my revise and resubmits) came from the slush pile. Yes. The slush pile. Writing those query letters, getting feedback from writing friends, and sending off every e-mail one by one until someone gave me more feedback or took a bite actually works. I wish I could say more…but alas, this situation is pending. 😉 Don’t fear the slush.

On a side note, I also managed to complete two manuscripts and publish two YA novels with Clean Teen Publishing! …And I work a full-time day job. (Not going to lie, I’m totally exhausted. But it’s been a great year!)

Manuscripts and Books!

Manuscripts and Books!

Why am I sharing this with you?

Because creating and meeting goals as a writer is HARD…and often unpredictable. When I wrote down my three goals for 2016 on a little green Sticky Note that I kept on the back of my desk (it looks pretty torn up and ugly now), I never thought I would reach most of them (and more) within the first two months. I could attribute it all to luck (which of course comes into play), and I could definitely cite connections (thank you again, Tamara and Natasha and Genese and and and!), but I have to be kind to myself, too.

I jumped at every opportunity I could, even if that meant I would be up for 48 hours straight and driving for 5…and spend some extra money that, logically, I shouldn’t have. (But definitely don’t regret.) Right now, I work three jobs, including being an author, and I’m more exhausted than not. But I know following my dream is worth it. Somewhere in my gut I am always filled with excitement and hope and energy…and every now and then, all of this work leads me somewhere unpredictable and wonderful.

So what’s my tip?

Beyond basic goal setting advice, I am going to stick my neck out there and say something crazy.

For every “realistic” goal you set, set a crazy “unrealistic” one, too.

Why? Because maybe “unrealistic” isn’t so unrealistic once you get started, but setting it will force you to get started. Setting goals causes you to miracle jump over that hurdle you thought you couldn’t even climb on your best days. For me, I honestly believed most of the goals I set for 2016 were unreachable…or at least would take a very, very long time. Why? Because I had tried to accomplish them before and failed. 2016, for me, was the year of reaching failed goals. 2016, for me, became the year “unrealistic” became a reality.

2017 can be yours.

~SAT

 

#MondayBlogs My Protagonist and Illiteracy

5 Sep

My protagonist is illiterate. She recognizes a few letters, she can identify her name, and she loves listening to stories more than anything. But she cannot read.

Her name is Serena, and Serena is a bad blood.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

While Serena lives in a futuristic world where magical children like her are executed, illiteracy is a very real issue in our world today. An issue I wanted to discuss in my Bad Bloods duology. There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding illiteracy—some of which I discuss in an article Tackling Diversity in YA—but the main one is the fact that illiteracy isn’t as uncommon as the average reader might think.

1 in 4 children in America grow up without learning how to read. (DoSomething.Org)

books-writing-reading-sonja-langford-large

For readers, this fact might seem startling. Readers generally know other readers, after all. And—on top of that—many of the characters in YA fiction love books, because readers love books, and it’s easy to relate to a character that loves the same things as them. For many readers, it’s impossible to imagine a world without reading, even in fantasy and sci-fi settings. I, for one, definitely struggle with that concept, but illiteracy is a reality for many young people, especially women all over the world. Granted, I will be the first to admit that I did not set out to write Serena as an illiterate person to spread awareness. No. I originally set out to write her as a character who didn’t enjoy reading due to severe dyslexia—something my brother and father deal with to this day.

As a child, growing up in a household where my two role models didn’t read was very difficult, especially when my late mother was a reader but no longer able to share that joy with me. That being said, we can relate to one another—readers or not—as people, and since so many characters are readers, I wanted to remind readers we can love those who don’t read, too (although maybe we can help them find the perfect book so they try reading again)! We can also understand how illiteracy happens, and hopefully, we can learn to sympathize with it and also help others learn to read in the future.

The issue of illiteracy developed with Serena’s character over time, but I wouldn’t change Serena for the world. She is smart. She is caring. She loves ice cream, her friends, and stories told beneath the full moon. She falls in love. She cries. She feels pain and sorrow. She laughs.

Serena may be illiterate, but she still has a story.

And so do the millions of people around the globe dealing with illiteracy today.

That is why she’s my protagonist.

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Rain is FREE

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Bad Bloods: November Snow

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Free Bad Bloods Prequel: Wattpad

#MondayBlogs Writing Tips: Naming Your Characters

22 Aug

Naming characters is really important! It can also be fun…and a little daunting. Choosing them can take hours, and on top of that, publishers might change them anyway. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the process. In this article, I’ll list a few aspects to consider while naming your characters, and I’ll include websites you can use as tools to find the perfect name.

Have fun!

1. Time & Culture

Is it believable that your character’s parents would name them something within the setting’s restrictions? Of course, there are exceptions, but consider the year. 1880 is going to be VERY different from 2030. Research your setting! If you want, you can actually look up popular names through the years at SSA, [Social Security Association.] Also, BabyNames.com allows you to explore baby names based on origin, ex. Irish names, Persian names, etc. Babynames.com provides thousands of names within cultures, meanings, genders, and more. You can even save your favorite names as you skip around. (Don’t be surprised if people ask you why you’re looking up baby names in public. I’ve been “congratulated” on a number of occasions.)

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2. Last Names and Family Lineage

Remember most parents use iambic pentameter for names. The rhythm should work. On top of that, you can consider naming a character after another character. A son may be named after his father or grandfather. Last Name Meanings provides a list of last names and where they derived from, along with the meaning behind them.

3. Unique and Memorable

Of course everyone knows not to use names already used in very famous novels, but what about within your own book? Avoid repetitive names or sounds. You probably don’t want to name everyone with a “J” name. It’d be hard to follow Jack, John, Jared, and Jill around. Personally, I suggest making a list of characters names in alphabetical order so you can physically see what is represented. Consider start, end, and syllables. The exception generally happens within relationships. Example? If you have brothers, maybe they will have similar names, but don’t overdo it.

4. Mixing Names (Sci-Fi/Fantasy)

Listen, we all know sci-fi/fantasy generally calls for unique names, but tread carefully. Having a character names Zzyklazinsky is going to be WAY too hard for a reader’s eyes. Sometimes, your best bet is taking well-known names and simply mixing them to create something more relatable but unique, ex. Serena + Violet = Serolet. Try NameCombiner.com to see what you can come up with.

5. Look All Around You

There are so many references on the Internet to find names. Other than those websites stated above, get creative. Pick up an old yearbook. You’ll be surprised how many different first and last names (along with rhythms) you can find. However, I suggest not using a person’s exact name, but rather use it as a reference. Maybe a first or a last. When I recently atteneded a high school graduation, I kept the pamphlet with all the names on it. There’s nothing like needing a quick reference – a real one – that isn’t online. Even funnier? A real Noah Welborn was on there. (My male protagonist from The Timely Death Trilogy is named Eric Welborn, but his little brother is named Noah Welborn.) Sometimes, reality fuses with fiction. And, of course, life in general. If you’re at a restaurant and notice your waiter’s name on his nametag, jot it down. Even if you don’t use it now, you might in the future…which brings me to my last point.

Keep a list of names that you love (and maybe even why you love them). That way, when you’re ready to write another book, you have a notebook filled with ideas already, and you can start right away.

A mixture of all these things creates a list of believable characters, and I really hope you’ll enjoy playing around with names more than before!

Original posted April 29, 2013

~SAT

Here are two of my FREE books:

Bad Bloods: November Rain

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Minutes Before Sunset

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#MondayBlogs An Author Who Fears Public Speaking

15 Aug

Despite working with the English language every day—as a writer, as an editor, and as a reader—I have difficulty speaking. I stumble and stutter a lot. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I worked so hard to master the written language. I was making up for another aspect of the language I didn’t excel in.

Looking back on it, I blamed moving around a lot as a kid—mixing up accents and idioms—but I don’t use blame anymore. In fact, I’ve rather embraced this awkward part of myself, and it no longer bothers me like it used to. A common comeback from a friend generally includes phrases like, “Okay. English major.” Or “Aren’t you the writer here?” Yeah. Yeah. I get it. I stutter. But it’s an accepted part of my life now, something I don’t fight, something I realized most people look past anyway. I was the one judging myself.

Take this anecdote as an example…

On a drive back from the grocery store, I saw Venus and Jupiter in the sky. I am a HUGE space nerd—probably due to Sailor Moon—so I started rambling about how new information on Pluto released, and that’s when I came across the word “meteors.” The problem was simple. I had just finished talking about how Meg Cabot’s final book in the Mediator series, and now I had to say meteor? It wasn’t happening. I stumbled for three minutes. Eventually, it turned into a giggle fit.

I know the words. I know how to say the words. I just can’t explain why it doesn’t come out that way. But I think the saddest part is when people can no longer take you seriously when you stumble over a word or two. In all honesty, I haven’t had that problem much. In fact, I think I simply worried that it would happen, so I stayed silent. My speech class in college got me over that fear. If I can say this without bragging, I got a big ol’ A in that course. (I know. I know. It’s speech class. But it meant the world to me. In fact, it meant Pluto, Jupiter, and Venus to me.) Up until that point, I thought there was no way I could succeed as a writer with a pronunciation issue like mine. What was I supposed to do if I ever booked a signing where I had to read a chapter out loud? The horror! What happens when people think I couldn’t have possibly written the words if I couldn’t speak them? Double horror! How do I explain myself? …I just died from horror.

It was a panic attack waiting to happen…a panic attack I overcame a long time ago but still comes back every now and then when I have to say specific or pacific, shoulder or solider, Neanderthal, and, I suppose, meteor or mediator. (Fun fact: I stumbled over mediator in my YouTube video—Book Boyfriends—and said “med-a-tore” instead. I suppose I could’ve deleted it, reshot it, edited it out, but…I’ve embraced this part of myself.) At my recent book signings in Barnes & Noble, I even messed up “Wattpad.” For some reason, I cannot, for the life of me, say “watt.” I always say “what.” So, “Whatpad” it is, and the crowd laughed when I made a joke about it. My fear somehow turned into laughter.

These are all words I avoided saying out loud. All words I’ve used in stories a hundred times. All words that are, no matter what, precious to me.

“Emma Saying” on YouTube and “How To Pronounce” are two websites I use on a regular basis to practice. I don’t avoid words anymore, but I still stumble, and I imagine that’s just a part of me that makes me me—a character in my own right—a writer who stumbled over her love for words.

Four events in the past year where I overcame my fear for public speaking!

Four events in the past year where I overcame my fear of public speaking!

Original posted July 22, 2015

~SAT

Bad Bloods: November Snow by Shannon A. Thompson

Bad Bloods: November Snow by Shannon A. Thompson

Bad Bloods: November Snow FINALLY came in the mail this week! Safe to say, I’m in love. On top of that, a lovely reader sent me a November Snow book review that cracked me up. “THE AUTHOR GAME OF THRONED ME AND I WAS IN MY FEELINGS OKAY?!?!?!?” – Chic Nerd Reads …Yep. I love your Bad Bloods book reviews. Thank you for sending them to me. 

Right now, Bad Bloods: November Rain (book 1) is FREE across all platforms. I hope you check it out. I’ll be debuting the paperbacks at Penned Con in St. Louis this September, and I’ll be sharing a booth with the lovely Natasha Hanova. Stop by her page and say hi!

November Rain (FREE)

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November Snow 

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#MondayBlogs Content Disclosures for Novels

11 Jul

Recently, my content disclosure tree for Bad Bloods released by Clean Teen Publishing. What is a content disclosure tree? Well, I’ll leave that up to my publisher to define on their website. (Click here to read the definition. If you want to read my full content disclosure tree for Bad Bloods, click November Rain and November Snow.) I suggest reading both before continuing, but I’m going to write the article as if the links are broken. Clean Teen rates everything based on 4 subjects: violence, language, drug use, and romance/heat level, and you can see my examples below.

Content Disclosures for Bad Bloods

Content Disclosures for Bad Bloods

In summary, Clean Teen Publishing allows readers to understand what they’re picking up when they choose a book—which I completely support for numerous reasons, but I will mainly talk about personal experiences, both from working with readers and from traumatic topics I’ve lived through myself, and how these examples have helped me understand the consideration of a content disclosure.

Starting off at my day job, I help authors find readers interested in their work. One of the topics I always discuss with authors is whether or not there is incest, rape, or other controversial topics in the story. Why? Because many of the reviewers I have worked with requested to know this for various reasons. By talking to numerous readers every day, I started to realize how many readers would prefer to know certain things up front—again, for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s triggering for those with PTSD. Sometimes, they are simply disinterested in that scenario. Sometimes, it’s just a preference of how they are feeling that day. While I’m not one to be against any particular topic in a novel, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to read about certain topics, especially involving traumas.

That being said, this sort of disclosure hasn’t happened without controversy. Simply Google “disclosing content in novels” or “content ratings for readers” and I guarantee you’ll find a forum discussing the pros and cons of this. The main arguments I see revolve around ruining surprises and the effectiveness of even preventing someone from reading something they won’t enjoy. And that’s what I want to discuss.

First, as a writer who has written about controversial topics—particularly with violence in The Timely Death Trilogy and drug use in Take Me TomorrowI would—by no means—want a reader to pick up one of my works and accidentally be triggered by something. Speaking from personal experience, my mother died from a drug overdose when I was eleven, which is why I wrote Take Me Tomorrow, but through years of counseling, I met many kids like me who reacted very differently than I did. Reading Take Me Tomorrow would be extremely upsetting for them, and knowing what they went through, I would never want to cause them distress about such a personal topic. As a fellow reader, I would also rather find them something else they might like to read.

Granted, I understand the “just put it down” argument, but—at the same time—why can’t we prevent readers from picking up a book they definitely won’t like in the first place? This isn’t about ratings or reviews. This is about caring about your readers’ feelings and time. Now . . . here is where I hear the “but that ruins the surprise” argument . . . which I don’t understand, because—if done correctly—the content disclosure will say the topic, not which character and on which page. Take my full disclosure for example (if you click on this link, it’s at the bottom of the page). Clean Teen Publishing lets us know that November Rain talks about the violence in the book, but it doesn’t say how it plays out. It doesn’t say how it happens or when it happens. It doesn’t even say how much it happens. If anything, I’ve given away SO MUCH more on my own website.

I know I write about controversial—and often violent—topics in my stories, and I, by no means, have an issue with readers knowing that up front, especially because my novels fall under the YA genre, and genres alone don’t warn about the insides. TV and movies have had ratings for a long time, and while I understand that it’s much easier to be surfing channels and accidentally comes across a movie (and a book takes much more time to get into), I think content disclosures can help a large portion of readers find more suitable books that they will enjoy.

Content disclosures can help those that feel like they need it, and those who feel they don’t need content disclosures can ignore them. If you want to be surprised about all the topics, for instance, don’t read the disclosure. It’s as simple as that. At this point, I will say that I don’t think it needs to be an industry standard but rather something that is up to an author and their publisher (and of course, the reader). Personally, I love them. I see too many benefits coming from them for me not to love them. Content disclosures can help those avoiding triggering topics and even help parents choose books for their children that they deem appropriate. Disclosures can help readers find exactly what they’re looking for, maybe even a controversial topic they’ve struggled to find. Everyone who wants them can read them, and everyone who doesn’t want them doesn’t have to use them, but as an author, I’m glad my novels have them.

P.S. On a fun side note, my publisher actually makes these for anyone interested! Click here to check it out.

P.P.S. Original posted here. (I covered The Timely Death Trilogy)

~SAT

Check out my latest interview on the KC Writes Interview Podcast! We discuss publishing, writing fantasy novels, studying poetry, hosting events, and other surreal parts about authors’ lives.

Clean Teen Publishing is hosting their Christmas in July giveaway, and it’s epic! They are giving away a Kindle Fire‬ and up to $200 in cash!!! Check out the details and yes, this giveaway is open for International contestants. They’re hosting a Goodreads Giveaway for Bad Bloods: November Rain as well.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Preorder Bad Bloods

Preorder Bad Bloods

 

#MondayBlogs So, You Want To Be A Book Blogger

20 Jun

I must clarify one thing before I start: I am not a book blogger, but I used to be—for about three years—and I still post book reviews on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. I also help authors connect with book bloggers every day. I’m an author myself, after all. I know how important book reviews are, and because of this, I absolutely adore book bloggers. In a metaphorical publishing world, book bloggers are authors’ best friends, and readers who don’t blog are the friends authors meet at the book blogger’s party. The reason I’m writing this is to make that party as enjoyable as possible. Below, I have outlined some tips to help aspiring book bloggers get started with a website, as well as how to create a fun and safe environment for bloggers, readers, and authors.

For Your Website:

1. Find a Host: Name Your Blog and Yourself

Pick out where you want to blog. Personally, I love WordPress, and it’s free! But you can also go to Blogger and many other places. Once you choose, consider the name of your blog carefully. It is your blog, of course, but try to avoid a name that contradicts the blog’s purpose. Ex: “Magical Book Reviews” when you don’t read novels with magical elements. This could cause a lot of confusion and frustration when it’s easily avoidable. If you can pick a name that sums up what types of books you plan on reviewing, even better. But once you have a name, name yourself by creating an About Me page. Have a name on your blog. It doesn’t have to be your REAL name, but readers like to be personal. We want you to know we truly enjoy your website, and using your name is one way we can prove we aren’t mass commenting or sending you spam messages. Knowing more about you also helps readers share your blog to others. For instance, if you’re a librarian, I will tell others to go check out an amazing reviewer who gets to work around books all day!

Books I've reviewed this summer that I totally recommend!

YA books I’ve reviewed this summer that I totally recommend!

2. Have a Contact Page, Review Request Form, and/or a Review Policy:

This advice is for book bloggers who are looking for authors, publishers, and other people to submit novels. Be clear about what you want to read and what you never want to read. Include types of information you want in a request, like a link to Amazon or the synopsis. If you are closed for submissions, put that at the top in bold. This way, requesters don’t read pages of information only to realize you’re not accepting anything. Clarify if you accept self-published and small press published authors. I would also suggest adding if you reply to all requests or only the ones you’re interested in. That way, you won’t get as many repeat emails wondering if you received their request. You could also include your favorite and least favorite novels—and if you want to get really fancy, tell us your ratings of well-known novels. This will help start reading discussions with fellow readers of that genre.

3. Include a Rating System and Other Websites:

Clarify if you will use the 5-Star Rating System and/or explain how you rate on other pages. For instance, if you say 3.5 on your blog, explain what you’ll do on websites that aren’t accommodating to that (like if you will generally lean up or down or if it depends on the novel). Readers will want to know if, how, where, and when you will be posting reviews. This is also a GREAT opportunity to send your readers to your Bookstagram, Vlog, Goodreads page, or other places where you review books. On a side note, if you are accepting review requests, I would suggest stating if you will or will not post your review no matter the rating. Unfortunately, there has been hostility in the past with authors/publishers requesting readers to only post reviews if it is a certain rating. Although I don’t agree with anyone who demands this, I still suggest clarifying that you will post your review, even if it is below 5 stars. That way, they won’t demand it from you later or send you nasty emails when it happens. By posting your rules, you lessen your changes of internet negativity.

A Note For Authors:

Remember that book bloggers are your best friend. Respecting boundaries is important. Don’t request a review from someone until you have read their review policy, and definitely do not contact them with your dinosaur erotica if they state they hate dinosaurs or erotica or both (even if you think you will somehow change their mind). If you receive a poor review, do not retaliate in any way. If you’re going to say anything at all, just thank them. They read your book, after all. If you promised to share their review, share it. If they promised to review a book but never did, be polite when asking them if they are still interested in reading your novel.

Sometimes, expectations fall flat, but surprises are sometimes better. Helping one another know what to do in certain situations can improve everyone’s relationship, but it does take two. Taking these steps might help our friendship grow more than ever before.

We want the author-reader relationship to be fun and exciting, so let’s be sure to celebrate one another with respect and enthusiasm.

Here’s to our love for books.

Original posted March 6, 2014

~SAT

On a side note, my YouTube channel – Coffee & Cats – is back! This month, I discussed Female Romantic Tropes…We Hate, and next month, I’ll discuss Male Romantic Tropes…We Hate. Granted, these tropes work for both genders, but I separated them due to how much each trope happens to that specific gender. I hope you like it! And, of course, let me know what tropes you don’t like, so we can continue to change fiction!

We’re less than a month away from the Bad Bloods book release! 

Preorder Bad Bloods

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

November Rain by Shannon A. Thompson

November Rain

by Shannon A. Thompson

Giveaway ends July 16, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

#MondayBlogs Writing With Barbie

13 Jun

Authors use various methods to write novels. Some of these strategies are popular, while others are simply bizarre, and two years ago I confessed one of my strangest approaches.

Barbies.

You see, I began writing what would be my first published novel when I was 11, and because I was 11, I loved to daydream with dolls. Instead of plotting with a pen and paper, I pulled out those Barbie dolls—the same dolls that told me I could be anything while I was growing up—and I assigned each one to a potential character. I played out scenes, I tested dialogue, I assessed locations, and I watched my book come to life…Well, a plastic life. And the results were pretty humorous.

Many of my characters’ physical descriptions were actually based on the dolls I used. You can see more of this in the original novel, but some of the characters changed in the remake. That’s right. I’m talking about my upcoming release, Bad Bloods.

Bad Bloods began as a game I played with my Barbie dolls when I was a kid.

Now, if you’ve read the original or even the back covers, then you might be concerned for 11-year-old Shannon, considering how violent the book is, but there’s no need to be concerned. (I think.) Today is meant for laughter. Today, I wanted to share that funny truth behind Bad Bloods, no matter how dark the story is. Even better, I still have these toys (and I definitely still use them to this day), so I’m sharing a few of them as well as small excerpts from Bad Bloods that prove this goofy aspect of my writing.

You’ve been warned.

A little background before we begin:

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.  

Bad Bloods 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 two pictures. Read below for info on the characters, including a one-sentence background and a real excerpt from the novel. I’m also including a little note, explaining how my 11-year-old brain worked. Got that? Okay. I think I’m even lost, but trust me—it’s organized. I hope you chuckle as much as I did while writing this post! Traveling to the past can be a funny adventure.

theboys

Robert: 20, leader of the Southern Flock (hates hugs)

“Everything is fine.” Robert’s light voice didn’t match his stiff movements. When he ran a hand through his hair, his brown bangs stuck up. “But everyone needs to be quiet.”

11-y-o Note: Believe it or not, he’s not the antagonist. Sort of? Okay. Let’s go with antihero.

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

Daniel walked through the crowd, but it wasn’t much of a walk. It was more like stumbling and I had never seen Daniel stumble. Not once. Not even when he was fighting. But he was wearing the blue-and-white plaid jacket and it fluttered amongst the crowd of black coats and gray sweaters. He was practically asking to be arrested.

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

Calhoun: 57, Daniel’s mentor (kind of a hard ass)

Before I had the chance to knock, the door swung open and smacked against the brick wall. An enormous man filled the entrance. The muscles in his left arm were hard to ignore, but the sleeve that should’ve been tightly wrapped around his right arm was dangling at his side, limbless. Despite his injury, Calhoun wasn’t troubled one bit. A shotgun swung outside and pointed toward my chest.

11-y-o Note: So, my one-arm GI Joe helped create this character, but this character’s personality is very similar to my father. Though, my dad has both arms…and he’s not a vet. But I swear they are alike. You might also remember me mentioning Calhoun in Tackling YA in Diversity, where I explain how I went about writing a character with a disability.

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Michele: 17, mother figure of the Northern Flock (Her origin story is up on Wattpad: Read Michele)

But the most beautiful one was the woman. She was tall and willowy, with long white hair and gray eyes like mine. Unlike me, though, every part of her seemed soft, like a warm glow followed her around wherever she went.

11-y-o Note: I definitely kept her white hair, and the character is almost always wearing black in the book as well.

Ami: 14, member of the Southern Flock. (Hates being called “Ami.” Her name is Ameline Marion Lachance.) 

When I first laid eyes on the girl, she was dressed head to toe in pink. Her blonde hair was threaded back into intricate braids, and a bow sat at the end of the braids where the golden strands came together. When Ami cried, she swung her head back and forth, and the bow swayed like a pendulum, all neat and tidy like a present.

11-y-o Note: You can’t really see the doll’s hairstyle anymore, but it was there. I promise. I also used pink on this character a lot.

Tessa: 9, member of the Northern Flock (too small to crush on Adam, but apparently, all the girls like Adam…maybe I should’ve shared Adam…Adam’s origin story is also up on Wattpad: Read Adam)

I pointed to the girl with pigtail braids. “That’s Tessa.”

“So what?” Tessa said, looking over her shoulder at Adam, then to me, her earthy brown eyes matching her powers and her complexion.

11-y-o Note: Her hair, like Ami’s, used to be tied up, too.

The End.

On a serious note, I think writing can be explored in a million ways, and I love my shameless Barbie play. I’ve legitimately called my #1 beta reader complaining of being stuck and she has asked me if I pulled the Barbies out yet. Having a physical representation works for me. I definitely don’t use their descriptions in newer writings, but I wanted to keep what I could for the rewrite since this particular work was built upon them. Imagination shouldn’t be chained to rules. Find what works for you, explore how you want, and daydream until the end of time. Even if that means playing with dolls.

Original posted April 19, 2014

It actually has different dolls and characters, but some of those characters have changed, so I didn’t include them in this post.

~SAT

To everyone I met at BFest this week, thank you for coming out! 

I had a blast!

BFest2016

If you missed out, you can buy signed books from Barnes & Noble in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park, KS and in Zona Rosa in Kansas City, MO!

For you online readers, don’t forget that Minutes Before Sunset, book 1 in the Timely Death Trilogy, is FREE right now. (And book 2 and book 3 are available, so no waiting!)

Minutes Before Sunset: book 1:

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Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#MondayBlogs Authors, Add Extras to Books

23 May

Writing a book is long process often filled with notes, maps, character charts, soundtracks, and Sticky Notes. If a novel is 350 pages long, there’s probably a stack of papers twice that high that led up to the publication of it. Whether it was an editorial letter or a rewrite or a list of background stories, authors are constantly juggling the writing of the journey and the creation of it—two very different things when you consider not all world-building and character creating makes it into the final story. But that doesn’t mean your notes have to be thrown away. It doesn’t mean that they have to collect computer dust either. You, as the author, can share them, and readers might just love you for it.

I’m talking about extras.

What are extras? These are elements of your story that didn’t make it into your novel but aspects you can still share with your readers. Below are some ideas to try out.

1. An Overall Extras Page

All three of my series have an Extras page on my website. (Check them out: Bad Bloods, The Timely Death Trilogy, and The Tomo Trilogy.) What do I include on my overall Extras pages? Anything and everything. I link to articles that relate to the building of the novel, I share fan art by awesome readers, I create games and personality quizzes, and I list anywhere else they might find other fun tidbits about the book. This could be where you offer signed books or swag. It could be where you post a map (if that’s not in your book) and/or maps of particular rooms. You could include music or favorite quotes or super fans who’ve sent photos in with your books or you at a signing. I have calendars that show what dates my chapters take place on. I’ve included scrapbooks where I pasted pictures on the pages that reminded me of characters. I’ve even discussed how much particular characters have changed. Any notes that helped you build would be great for this kind of page.

Example extras: fan art, calendars, and maps from my pages.

Example extras: fan art, calendars, and maps from my pages.

2. Wattpad Shorts 

Remember that scene you LOVED like crazy but your editor convinced you to cut? (Let’s be honest. It needed to be cut. It didn’t move the story forward, but it was SUCH a great scene.) Well, this is what Wattpad is for. Not only is Wattpad filled with aspiring writers and avid readers you can connect with, you can also give more to the fans you already have by posting shorts either cut out from your novels or brand-new short stories that are simply related to your novel. I’m doing this with my new release right now. Since there are so many characters, many of their background stories were very limited in the novels, but I had written longer, detailed versions, and I didn’t want them to sit on my computer. I’m now posting all their origin stories, spanning them out over a series of weeks, and they can be read as extras—before, after, or while reading Bad Bloods—or read just for fun. Never let that cut scene you love go to waste ever again.

3. Social Media Websites To Think About

Like Wattpad, there are dozens—if not hundreds—of websites out there you can use to host extras for your novel. Did you listen to certain songs while writing? Create a playlist on YouTube or 8tracks so readers can listen, too. Did you make a Pinterest board for all of your characters? Great! Link to it. Let readers see a physical representation of your imagination. Try to make personality quizzes (Which character are you? Which couple from the book are you? How long would you last in my post-apocalyptic story?). Think of your content and have fun with it! After all, you wrote an entire novel about it.

So, again, just a little list to think about: Fan art, any notes you had, related articles, maps, calendars, soundtracks, Pinterest boards, personality quizzes, swag, signed books, and more.

The only thing I’d warn against is spoilers. Be sure to warn and label spoilers accordingly. And, of course, have fun!

Original posted April 6, 2013

~SAT

13245233_1046886115358569_5859558976763581283_nIf you sign up for the Bad Bloods Thunderclap, I’ll send you signed swag from The Timely Death Trilogy and Bad Bloods. All you have to do is sign up, take a screenshot of your support, and email me at shannonathompson@aol.com. What’s a Thunderclap? It’s an automated message that will release from your Twitter, Tumblr, and/or Facebook page the day of the book release to help me reach more readers. I only have to reach 100 supporters for the message to go out, so any and all help is appreciated.

maggieIn other news, the Bad Bloods Prequel was updated on Wattpad! Read Maggie’s story today! Right now, you can read the origin stories of Adam, Michele, and Maggie. Ryne’s story releases June 3, with more stories releasing every other Friday. (There might also be an origin story coming up that relates to Jessica and Eric in The Timely Death Trilogy, so…wink…wink.)

On top of that, you can officially pre-order both books in the Bad Bloods duology. If you pre-order November Snow, I will send you November Rain for review today! (And if you write a review, I will send you November Snow right after that.) This means you could read these two books RIGHT NOW just by preordering and sending me a receipt to shannonathompson@aol.com. All of this news (and more) went out in my newsletter on Sunday, so if you’re missing out on the latest giveaways, you should sign up here.

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#MondayBlogs What Changes From First Draft to Publication?

16 May

What changes from first draft to publication? So much. In fact, nearly everything. But if the answer was that simple, an entire article (or even whole books on the topic) wouldn’t be necessary, so there’s more to this answer than it seems. Despite that, I insist you take my article with a grain of salt. In the end, everyone’s writing method is different, so everyone’s editing process will be fine-tuned to fit that particular project. Figuring out what works for you and what needs to be done is key, but I wanted to discuss a few topics that almost always change for everyone, so you can prepare yourself for the battle ahead. (It’s a fun battle, I promise.)

1. Word Count

Please, please, please be open to changing your word count. This is especially true for those writers pursuing traditional publication. For every genre, for every age group, there is a “perfect” word count range you’re basically expected to fall into when querying or pitching. Yes, there are exceptions. You might even become the exception during an editing process, but knowing how long or short your story should be shows your knowledge for the market and for what’s appropriate for your audience. That being said, I’m going to contradict myself and say it’s better to be true to the story than to fit a standard, but keep an open mind when rereading your work to see if you can fit the standard. Maybe a scene isn’t necessary. Maybe two scenes can be combined. You might even find yourself contemplating a cut of your favorite scenes or characters, and sometimes, that’s necessary. Keep it in a folder. Share it as an extra on Wattpad later. But making sure everything is vital is one of those tricky but true things a writer must overcome. I struggle with this myself! Almost all of my novels’ first drafts are 130,000 words, but I quickly figure out a lot of it was repetitive information or information not needed for a storyline. I might save it for a sequel or condense it somewhere else, but I tend to find reaching those ideal word counts isn’t that hard as long as I allow myself to let things go and move on. Letting go can be difficult though, so to help you with that, I suggest you read The Disposability of Ideas by Maggie Stiefvater. She is the author of The Raven Cycle and a mad genius when it comes to letting things go, even when you don’t want to.

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2. Characters

Names. Descriptions. Backgrounds. Even their existence might change. Oftentimes, writers will find that two characters in a draft can be combined to serve one purpose, or visa versa (one character could become two). Publishers are notorious for changing names—especially of protagonists—but I always suggest writers face this problem themselves before submitting. Don’t count on publishers choosing the perfect name, and try not to get attached in case they do change it in the end. I personally like to take notes of a characters’ background while also keeping a list of other names used in the story. This way, I make sure I’m using different types of names, including the first letter, the syllable count, the sound, etc.—all while staying true to their background as a person. As an editor, I receive a lot of manuscripts where all 20-some characters have similar sounding names, and unless that serves a purpose (like twins named closely together), it can get really confusing really fast. Of course, names is a shallow example of what can be changed, but I think it’s a good one since many writers get very attached to names quickly…and I’m about to expand on characters a little more in my last topic.

3. Major Changes and Rewrites

In the end, your plot, purpose, genre, or even cast could change completely. I, for one, just finished a manuscript that started off as a 62,000-word draft and ended up being a 92,000-word novel. Why? Because I was missing that much information the first time around. I wasn’t sure about my setting, I didn’t know my characters THAT well, and the secrets didn’t reveal themselves until the end. On top of that, I’m a plotter, not a pantser, so this was a painful book for me, but I followed my gut and did what I could and then, I faced my rewrites head-on. Let me use characters as an example for how much could change overall. A character’s gender, sexual orientation, secrets, lifestyle, background, and mindset could change simply because you didn’t TRULY know that character when you first set out to write the book (even though you thought you did). I recall Cassandra Clare discussing this at a panel I attended recently. For those of who are familiar with The Mortal Instrument series, she actually didn’t plan the big twist about Jace at the end, and she simply couldn’t understand why he acted the way he did for over 700 pages of the first draft. It wasn’t until she got there that she learned that vital aspect about his life, and so, naturally, she had to go back and rewrite the entire story to make his character real again. Don’t shy away from the right change, even if that change demands an entire rewrite. That change could be what makes your book.

The first draft is only the beginning, but that fact doesn’t have to be a scary thing. It can be an amazing thing. All writers go through it, and all writers come out of each stage happier than they were in the previous stages. Rewriting that 62,000-word draft I discussed above, for instance, was one of the best projects I’ve ever worked on. When it finally began to take shape, I was satisfied and proud of the work. Before I rewrote it, it simply sat on my computer collecting technology dust. Think of editing and rewriting as another writing adventure—one that will take you one step closer to publication—and what could be better than that?

Original posted March 20, 2014.

(On a side note, the original is VERY different than this article. I actually focused on a real novel of mine, so if you want to see a detailed account of what I went through with one novel, this is a great article to read.)

~SAT

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November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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#MondayBlogs What It’s Like To Co-Author With Your Mother

4 Apr

Intro:

Recently, I had a blast working with young adult author Bronte Huskins and her mother, Sarah Newton. Together, they wrote the novel, Never Mind My Thigh Gap, a story about a young girl joining a model competition to overcome her insecurities while finding friends along the way. (I love this novel, by the way.) When they offered to write an article about their co-authorship, I invited them on here immediately. I hope you’ll enjoy their story as much as I do.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in guest articles are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect my own. To show authenticity of the featured writer, articles are posted as provided (a.k.a. I do not edit them). However, the format may have changed.

What It’s Like To Co-Author With Your Mother by Bronte Huskins

The question, “So, what was it like to work with your mum?” gets asked a lot, with the expectation of the answer being, “It was very challenging” or, “It was so difficult and at times I wanted to rip her head off!” But the answer, the real answer, couldn’t be more opposite. Writing a novel with my mum taught me a lot about my writing and actually made me a better writer.

Working with my mum on a novel we are both passionate about was actually a really enjoyable experience. There was never a time where I got so frustrated that I had plotted how I would kill her in her sleep that night. Of course it was hard work; writing a novel is certainly the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I think that having my mum there writing it with me actually helped keep my sanity in check. She understood my frustration when the characters were being a bit too moany and cried with me as we wrote the ending. It’s an experience I’m glad I could share with her.

0 (1)The one thing I was surprised about was how much I learnt from co-authoring Never Mind My Thigh Gap. My mum showed me what my strengths and weaknesses were and how to play with them and use them to my best advantage. She taught me that I was great at characterisation, conversation and description, but not so good with the nitty gritty, in-between stuff, which she turned out to be good at. She made me a better writer and we just worked together as co-authors.

We managed to get a rhythm going pretty early on in the process; I wrote the main text and my mum would edit it and write Oscar’s point of view. This involved a lot of sending the book backwards and forwards, and doing it again we realised that it would’ve been a whole lot easier just to send my mum the whole thing once I had written the first draft. We know that now but despite this, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a learning experience and was a real bonding experience. I can’t imagine writing a novel without her anymore.

My tips on co-authoring with or without your mother.

Start with a plan

The main tip I would give to anyone who co-authors is come up with a plan of action beforehand. Writing this novel could’ve easily turned into a disaster, but we planned the outline of the story before actually writing it. Even though the story did change as we went on, having the first outline was extremely helpful.

Learn to compromise

I would also advise that you learn how to compromise; the trouble with co-authoring is that it’s not just your book, you have to share your baby with someone else. Whilst it does take some of the pressure off, it does also mean that you have to combine your ideas with someone else, and not all of them make the cut.

Be honest

First with yourself and then with the other person. Often the other person may say or do something that you instantly have a negative reaction to. Stop first and think about what they are saying, could it be true, even if a little bit? I remember once my mum saying I use too many words and my first reaction was to scream at her, but she was right – I do and when I got over myself and listened to her, the book was better. Also I felt completely at ease being honest with her and not hurting her feelings. I never held anything back as I didn’t want there to be any tension between us.

Know your strengths

Part of this process helped us both get really clear what our strengths are. I am very good at character development and speech, my mum showing the reader what is happening and the emotional impact of the story. When we realised what we were both great at, it allowed us to settle in to our respective parts.

I know it’s not for everyone, but I found and still find co-authoring with my mum a great experience.

Bio:

0 (1) (1)I am an 18-year-old student at Bath Spa University currently studying Creative Writing and Publishing. My first book ” Never Mind my Thigh Gap” is based on my own experience of entering a model competition to get over my body image issues. I write about ordinary, everyday heroines who are more likely to don a new lipstick than a suit of armour. I want my heroines to be real and relatable, acting like a teenager does in real life; unsure, scatty and indecisive.  With my writing I want to inspire young girls who feel they don’t fit into society’s norm to be comforted by the down-to-earth related characters in our books and realise, in their own way they are heroines too.

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

~SAT

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