My Hate-Love Relationship with Historical Fiction

8 May

I love historical fiction. In fact, I’m currently binge reading, watching, and writing it right now. But I have a beef with it. (Does anyone even say that anymore? No? Oh, well.) If you’re curious, I’m reading Stalking Jack the Ripper, watching Reign, and writing a book set in the ancient world. Very different time periods, but all can easily fall into my hate-love with the genre.

So what is my issue with the genre?

My biggest pet peeve with historical fiction is when I look up the factual story and the factual story is MORE—more fascinating, bizarre, fun, gory, symbolic, or anything MORE.

Let’s look at a few examples:

In the movie The Revenant with Leonardo Dicaprio, Hugh Glass fights his way back from the wilderness to enact bloody revenge on the two who left him to die. In real life? He actually tracked down the two men and ultimately forgave them, because it was better for society. (One was a solider and the other a young man with a family.) I actually LOVE the real version, because I think it teaches us more about survival and sympathy and societal sacrifice. But forgiveness doesn’t feed into the bloody climax many expect, does it? (On a side note, Hugh Glass could’ve been a pirate…but that also doesn’t make it into the movie either. Boo.) Here’s an article if you’re interested in more info: The Real Story of ‘The Revenant’ is Far Weirder (and Bloodier) Than the Movie.

In Reign, the show follows Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, as she marries the Dauphin of France. And it’s entertaining, don’t get me wrong. Lots of betrayal, murder, and sex. But the real-life version, if the show had been expanded to show more years, has MORE. Nearly everyone loses their head, country, or both. (It’s very Game of Thrones.) What I find strange, though, is not the focus but some of the blatant inaccuracies portrayed as fact. For instance, the show takes (weird?) liberties in taking shots at the blond hair Francis has when Mary herself was famous for blond-red hair, while Francis was the brunet. They even go as far as to say all Scots have dark hair. (Or bringing her mother into it, when they never saw one another after her childhood.) In real life, over time, there are three husbands. (Perfect for a trilogy, no?) That aside, I’ll absolutely acknowledge that brutal story is not the target audience or goal for the romantic TV show on the CW. Which brings me to my next point…

I don’t blame the authors or any creators behind this. Why? Because I get it. Truth is often stranger than fiction. If you wrote down some of the actual events that happened, readers or viewers would have a harder time believing that than the completely fictionalized version of an event. Not to mention that life doesn’t serve a linear, symbolic purpose…and with stories, that’s the whole point, especially when you bring genres and expectations for that genre into play. Not to mention the traditional narrative viewers and readers expect from certain historical periods. 

It was discovered, for instance, that slaves were not used to build the Great Pyramids. Skilled (and paid) craftsman were, which is why they could stage protests. (In fact, the first protests we now know of.) But our fictional worlds have yet to reflect this. (Oh, did I mention they were often paid with beer? I mean, come on.)

History—and what we understand of history—is constantly changing, and the genre should change along with it.

I want to see more Norse women out on Viking Voyages, as skilled seafarers. (Source) I want to see black cowboys (Source). I want to see skilled craftsmen building the pyramids (Source). I want to see the female sailors on the doomed Franklin expedition, especially since the entire crew was reported to be male (Source). I want to see an all-female battalion in the Russian Revolution (Source). I want MORE.

I get that it might be a little strange to see some of your favorite historical figures (and narratives) in a different light. But why not?

Why not challenge the traditional narrative, especially if it’s backed up by science and other types of studies? Why not write a version that’s based in factual evidence more than on speculation? On the opposite end, why not write a version that owns the fact that it’s not based in reality at all, like My Lady Jane (where royalty can shape-shift into animals)? Why not push those limits and expectations of what historical fiction can be? (On a side note, there’s actually a really funny/enlightening Oatmeal comic on why this is so difficult, and you can read it here.)

Historical fiction has limitless, constantly changing possibilities, and I cannot wait to see how it morphs in the future.

~SAT

Book Release: Bad Bloods: July Lightning!

1 May

Bad Bloods: July Lightning released today!  

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Top Ten Bad Bloods You’ll Meet In The New Duology

If you’ve read the first duology in the Bad Bloods universe, then you already know how crazy, wild, and wonderful a bad blood can be. (Book 1 is free across all platforms right now.) But if you don’t know what a bad blood is, a bad blood is a person with hindering abilities. Think X-Men, but the powers come with serious ramifications. Want an example? In the latest duology, Violet is a fourteen-year-old girl who can turn into a shadow…but she often loses herself to darkness and time, so she struggles to form back into a person. Because of her shadowy nature, she also has a hard time identifying as individual rather than simply following anyone she latches onto…like a shadow.

Here are the top ten bad bloods you’ll meet for the first time in the new Bad Bloods duology, July Thunder and July Lightning. Check out the Pinterest board for more inspiration!

  1. Levi (13): He’s described as a seedy sailor, with curly blond hair and skin that…glows. He might be closer to an eel. And his powers include cleaning water.
  2. Kuthun (18): A love interest in the book, Kuthun sees the strings of fate…even the strings of those who have died long ago.
  3. Kat (15): Between her night vision, her sharpened claws, and her black-white-red hair, Kat might as well be a calico cat. Even cats mistook her and sheltered her from a young age.
  4. Skeleton (15): Skeleton works in the Pits, an underground fighting ring, but his name should be taken literally. He’s slowly defying all science by turning into a skeleton…and remaining alive.
  5. Nuo (17): Nuo grew up with our protagonist Caleb, but her powers can make you repeat, repeat, repeat until whatever action you’re doing kills you.
  6. Hanna (16): She might be bald, but she can grow anyone else’s hair. And dye it, too.
  7. Ellen (9): She glows like a lighthouse, but after burning her own eyes, she cannot see the night she turns into day.
  8. Plato (7): Plato might have a glass heart…because he can turn sand into glass right before your eyes.
  9. Yasir (15): Do you like jewels? This is your guy. He can change anything into a gem…including his own eye, which is now a sapphire.
  10. Britney (8?): Her age is a mystery for a reason. Her powers, too. Revealing either could kill us all.

Bad Bloods: July Lightning

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Bad Bloods: July Lightning by Shannon A Thompson

Sixteen-year-old Caleb has been called many things: a patient, a musician, even a prostitute…now he has a new name—son. After his identity is uncovered, Caleb bands together with the family he once rejected in order to save the city of Vendona. But it won’t be easy. Enemies wait around every corner—and so do harsh realities. With Violet and Kuthun by his side though, nothing seems impossible. As Vendona sits on the verge of an economic collapse and a massive hurricane threatens the city, Violet and Caleb must show its citizens how to overcome decades of hostility and division to save themselves.

Standing or not, a sea will rage, a wall may fall, and all will depend on immortal pain and sacrifice.

Exclusive Excerpt

The stale air hit me first, then the smells of the trashed road followed. My eyes itched against the stench and sudden light. When the sky began to brighten to blue, a circular gray cloud surrounded the city. It burned white against the sunlight. Worse was how calm it all was. Like predators luring prey into a trap with a false sense of peace. The only hint of deception was the uncomfortable humidity. It stuck to me.

“How long do you think we have?” Serena asked, momentarily frozen by the sky looming overhead. It looked demonic, surreal, and uncertain.

“Give or take fifteen minutes,” I said. “Probably ten.”

She cringed. “I thought you might say that.”

“Don’t make it nine,” I bit back. Before she could respond, I took off running.

I had to get to Violet. I needed to. But most of all, I hoped Daniel would have the sense to close the adoption house after us.

Chances were we weren’t making it back. Not unscathed. And keeping the adoption house open at all would only risk others who didn’t deserve to face more danger. Not now. Not toward the end. But if I knew anything about the end—about death—it was the fact that it wasn’t fair. It was the one thing bad bloods and humans always had in common. Tonight, the reminder hung over us in the form of an all-seeing storm.

Weather didn’t discriminate—not like politics did—and neither did death.

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First Book Free

If you haven’t started this series, don’t worry! The first Bad Bloods book is free across all platforms. 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.

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Free Kindle Book: Bad Bloods: November Rain

If you read, please leave a review. And if you want me to share your review, send it to shannonathompson@aol.com. I love sharing your reviews! (And I love hearing what you’d like to see in the next duology.) Little authors like me depend on your support, so I greatly appreciate every minute you take to share, read, and review.

❤ Thank you for your support. ❤

~SAT

Can Genres Die?

24 Apr

“Why are you writing a vampire/dystopian/princess novel? That won’t sell today! It’s been overdone. It’s dead.”

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably participated in a conversation similar to the one above. Trends have a lot to do with the publishing industry. If you’re lucky enough to have something written and ready to go as the trend is escalating, chances are you’ll have an easier time getting published than if you were pitching a genre that previously trended. Why? Because business has a lot to do with timing, and writing is a business. When a topic is hot, similar books will follow. And after the market is flooded with said genre, it’ll be harder to get that chance again. That is an inevitable fact.

But do genres die?

Some would say yes. Some would SCREAM yes. But I would disagree. Granted, will it be harder to get your book published if it follows an old trend, such as vampires or dystopia? Absolutely. But if your book is truly unique—if it stands out from what was previous done—your writing can rise to the top, whether or not the genre is “dead.”

Take RoseBlood by A.G. Howard for example. It was published this year, and it more or less had vampires in it. (I don’t want to mention specifics, because spoilers…but check it out.) Despite following a lot of tropes (new girl goes to a new school where paranormal, romantic interest waits…because fate), the book stood out, because it twisted those tropes into something new. Instead of blood-sucking nocturnal Draculas, readers met…well, again, you probably have to read it for yourself. But it was unique.

Not that I have anything against blood-sucking nocturnal Dracula vampires…I actually might miss them.

Genres work a lot like tropes. Some readers will pick them up solely because that’s what they love. They will read those stories over and over and over again, and they will never tire of them. For instance, I will always love a good dystopian book. But if you shove me in an arena with a braided archer who wants to take down the government…I mean, come on. There are a million ways a society could be dystopian and a million ways a government can fall. It’s blatant repetition that causes readers and publishers alike to flinch away and claim something is “dead.” But it’s not dead. It’s just…boring. And it’s boring, because it’s predictable.

If you’re a writer and wondering how you can surpass your “dead” genre, consider what is unique about your work and amplify the hell out of it. Whether that’s your voice, viewpoint, twists, or expertise, pinpoint why this story stands out. (And if you can’t, reevaluate your work.) This is why reading the genre you’re writing in is so important. By doing that, you will know what is overdone, and you will be able to avoid it (or, at least, make your version stand out). And never stop writing just because something is “dead.” If writers made decisions based on that, writers would never write anything, because—let’s be real—everything’s been done to an extent. Don’t let trends or rumors or “dead ends” stop you. Write what you want to write, trends be damned. Your voice will thrive, and your stories will thank you for it.

I’m not going to lie though. If you wrote a novel about a vampire princess surviving in a dystopian world, I would die to read it.

~SAT

Not All Villains Think They’re Good

17 Apr

“Every villain is the hero in their own story” is a common, popular writing tip, and while I agree, I think it is sometimes confused with “Every villain thinks they’re the good guy.” There’s a difference between thinking you’re a hero and thinking you’re a good guy, and not every villain thinks they’re a good guy.

Though the word “hero” in itself has a positive connotation, I argue that villains can still be a “hero” in their own mind while also being aware they are doing something wrong or harmful. Take revenge plots as an example. Most often seen in thrillers, a protagonist could be solely out to seek revenge, whether or not that revenge is warranted. In fact, many believe revenge isn’t “justice” and therefore isn’t heroic. But, at the same time, a revenge-seeking protagonist will think of themselves as a hero without believing they are a good guy. A good example of this is Gerard Butler in Law Abiding Citizen. While he is seeking revenge for his family’s deaths, he kills many people who probably didn’t deserve to be hurt at all. And he’s aware of it. In fact, he uses it as a weapon against others. Therefore, he is a hero for his family, a villain to a lot of innocent people, and definitely the protagonist. But a good guy? I think he gave up that concept a long time ago.

Good guy? Bad guy? Who knows?

Granted, don’t get me wrong, I love a villain who thinks they’re the good guy. I love villains who tiptoe on the good/wrong line more. But I wish we saw more villains that were simply villains—bad guys doing bad things because they want to. Their psyche can be just as deep as someone who is doing bad things for “good reasons” or someone who thinks they’re doing good things when they’re in fact doing bad ones. But we’ve sort of obsessed over “bad guy thinks he’s good” recently…when I think we should be focused on making villains round characters.

Round someone who thinks they’re good all the time.

Round = character who does good and bad things based on many types of motivation.

People aren’t so black and white. No one is purely good or thinks they’re good, and no one is all bad either. One of my favorite, eerie quotes is that, yes, serial killers sometimes help grandma cross the street. In fact, serial killers are often some of the most charming people around. But if you study serial killers, (and you’re a True Crime junkie like I am), then you know serial killers are generally aware that what they’re doing is SUPER messed up…yet they do it anyway. And then, they go to work and school and raise families and so on and so forth. Aside from killers like Charles Cullen* (no relation to Twilight), they hardly ever think they’re being a good guy.

Villains can be bad guys who know they’re bad and do bad things regardless. Just make sure they’re 3D while they carry out those dastardly deeds.

Instead of “every villain thinks they’re the hero of their own story”, let’s change it to “every villain thinks they’re the protagonist of their own story—whatever that entails.” In fact, keep this is mind for every character. Your novel will love you for it.

*Charles Cullen, also known as ‘The Angel of Death’, was a nurse in a hospital who killed over 400 patients. He thought he was “mercy killing.” Keep in mind that many of his victims were in good health. He is currently considered the biggest serial killer in American History.

~SAT

My latest Bad Bloods book recently released! I hope you check it out. 

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What are readers saying? 

“I LOVE this! I am a sucker for great characters, and July Thunder has no short of them.” –The Book Forums

“From the start, Thompson grabs your attention. You’re sitting on the edge of your seat until the very last page.” – Infinite Lives, Infinite Stories

“Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!” – Babbling Books

If you haven’t started this series yet, don’t worry. Book 1 is FREE.

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Book Release! Bad Bloods: July Thunder

10 Apr

Bad Bloods: July Thunder released today!  

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I hope you enjoy the latest addition to the Bad Bloods universe! As the author, I can tell you that you will meet TONS of new bad bloods. (My personal favorite is Skeleton. He was born a healthy baby boy, but he is slowly turning into a skeleton over time, defying all science along the way. He even emits a poisonous gas.) You will also see some of your favorite characters from the first duology in a new light. Because Violet and Caleb tell this duology, you might see…other sides to people you didn’t see before. Old questions will be answered as well. Ever wonder what happened to Robert? Or did you want to see how the people of Vendona transitioned under a new president? Those questions will be explored (and new ones will come up). Explore sections of Vendona never seen before, including Eastern Vendona, which has the sunken bay. And the characters will finally step into the Pits again.

Keep reading for prizes, an exclusive excerpt, and extras!

Bad Bloods: July Thunder

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Fourteen-year-old Violet has been called many things: a bad blood, a survivor, an immortal…now she has a new name—citizen. But adjusting to a lawful life is not easy, especially when she must live under the rule of the same officers who justified the killings of her flock only eight months earlier.
Segregation of bad bloods and humans is still in effect, and rebellious Violet steps into a school where she is not allowed. When the police get involved, things deteriorate quickly, sparking a new revolution at the wall separating the Highlands from the outskirts.
That’s when Caleb steps in. He might appear to be an average sixteen-year-old bad blood, but he has secrets, and Violet is determined to figure them out. Caleb knows who’s attacking the wall and why, but his true identity remains a mystery—and how he relates to Violet could shake the threatened city to its very core.
Together or not, a storm will form, a rally will start, and shocking truths will be revealed.

Exclusive Excerpt

While the Northern Flock had to be quiet to survive, the herd played music in order to live.

Caleb’s hand found mine. “Dance with me?” he asked, but I hated my answer.

“I can’t.” My confession came with my wrecked knee. With one gesture, Caleb seemed to understand, but as he turned his eyes to his herd—to Britney prancing around with Plato, to Kat covering her ears, to Yasir holding Hanna with his protective gloves between them—Caleb pulled me up to my feet.

“Let me do it for you,” he said, and then, he lifted me up and placed me on the tops of his boots.

As he swayed, I saw the sunburn on the tops of his cheeks, the sand in his hair, the sea salt on his skin. Then, his chapped lips as he managed a shaky smile. For once, Caleb looked disheveled, and I had never liked him more.

“That’s some crew you have,” he said, but I hadn’t noticed anyone else in the world around us until he spun.

Life-sized shadows—dozens of them—danced all around us, and I recognized their shapes as people I would always know. Blake and his teddy bear. Floyd’s stretched limbs, and Ami’s swinging braids. Even Adam’s speed.

Alive or dead, the shadows of every member of my own flock joined in on the dance of a herd, and my heart fluttered at the sight.

Losing control had never felt so great.

Neither had a storm descending down upon us.

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 EXTRAS & PRIZES

Enter to win a Clean Teen Mystery Box, including paperbacks, here

Love bad bloods? Check out the inspiration board on Pinterest to meet lookalike characters and scenic areas.   

FUN FACT: Violet might be the main character in this duology, but she was just a side character in the first duology. She also has a prequel story on Wattpad. Be sure to read her origin story if you haven’t already. She’s also related to The Timely Death Trilogy, and I hope you enjoy that connection!

On top of that, Bad Bloods: July Lightning releases May 1! So there’s practically no waiting to finish this series. If you read, please leave a review. (And if you want me to share your review, send it to shannonathompson@aol.com). I love sharing your reviews! (And I love hearing what you’d like to see in the next duology.) Little authors like me depend on your support, so I greatly appreciate every minute you take to share, read, and review.

Keep on being you.

~SAT

P.S. Check out my latest YouTube video, Bad Bloods Book Release Bloppers in which I make a fool of myself trying to thank everyone for reading Bad Bloods: July Thunder.

Character Motivations vs Morals

3 Apr

Not going to lie, I recently binge-watched The 100 through Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, The 100 is a TV show based off a young adult series with the same name. The first season follows a group of 100 kids dropped off on earth after a nuclear disaster destroyed the planet 97 years prior. It’s currently airing season 4. (I’m only on season 3.) Granted, I’m not normally a TV person. In fact, I usually have to be extremely ill to watch a bunch of TV, but I made an exception for The 100. Why? Because I fell in love during episode one. What do I love about The 100? The character motivations. They are 100% believable, even when the plot gets crazy, and I feel like that’s pretty rare.

There’s no spoilers in this article for The 100. Don’t worry. But definitely check out a few episodes to see what I mean.

Character motivations are so important, but often dwindled down to right vs. wrong. But motivation can (and should) be more than that. As an example from The 100, Bellamy just wants to save his sister, no matter what it requires (right or wrong) and whether she wants it or not. In fact, he often does horrible things in order to achieve his goal. Therefore, he is driven by his motivation to save his sister, not his morals to be a good person. On top of that, though he believes saving his sister is his responsibility, he doesn’t lie to himself and think he is morally perfect because of it. He doesn’t have a “hero complex.” An older brother complex, sure. But not a heroic one. He is driven by motivation, not morals.

Why do I bring up morals? Because morals is sometimes the opposite of motivation in fiction. Though they can be synonymous, it’s easy to let a character slide one way or the other. Personally, I always prefer believable motivations to morally-driven characters. Why? Because completely morally-driven characters can be hard to relate to. I mean, let’s be real. Sometimes, that self-righteous hero trope gets a little…boring.

I would much rather watch a show or read a book where the characters’ motivations are believable, morals be damned. Let’s take villains, for instance. The most popular writing tip today is that every bad guy believes they are the good guy, and while I love that tip, I disagree. Not all bad guys think they’re good guys. Granted, I like a bad guy who thinks he’s good. I often prefer them that way. But it’s also fun to follow a character who knows they are selfish, who has reasons for their selfishness, and owns it.

Of course, it’s always best to have both worlds, right? Motivations and morals (and sometimes one fueling the other) can be fun and exciting and terrifying and interesting. But I would like to see more books with strong, sometimes twisted motivations that overcome morally-driven characters.

What about you? Do you prefer characters with motivations or morals or a mixture of both?

Discuss away! Just don’t be the evil one and post spoilers about The 100 in the comments below. (Or at least put a warning at the top of your post.)

Thank you,

~SAT

P.S. Bad Bloods: July Thunder releases next Monday! I also received my first review from Babbling Books! “Another fantastic addition to the Bad Bloods series and a marvelous start to a new duology. Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!”

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Writers, It’s Okay To Log Out

27 Mar

Social media is a must for writers today. Connecting with readers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms is easy and welcomed, but it can get overwhelming. With the myriad of ways we have of posting information—sometimes live—it’s easy to succumb to publishing pressures. Personally, I still struggle to figure out where my balance is in all the different types of social media platforms. Why? Because they are constantly changing and so is my schedule, but one thing remains the same. Making sure I’m interacting with readers and writers through social media is always near the top of my To-Do list.

There is also staying up-to-date in the publishing world. Whether you’re reading Writer’s Digest or Publishers Marketplace or one of the millions of amazing publishing blogs out there, there’s always something to read, to share, to consider.

But that doesn’t mean you should get lost in social media.

Extra tip: Pick only the social media platforms that you love. You don’t have to do everything.

One of my main pieces of advice to writers is to stop reading about writing and actually start writing. Not that reading about writing is bad. (I mean, I write about writing on this blog.) But if you’re reading more about writing than actually writing, then it might be time to log out. There’s only so much you will learn from studying writing. The best way to grow as a writer is to actually write for yourself. And I’m not an exception. Recently, I had to remove my social media from my phone. Mainly Facebook and Twitter. Why? Because I found myself spending more time reading my feeds than reading books. And quite frankly, it was starting to affect my writing. For example, I sometimes get so wrapped up in trends I forget about what I WANT to write—and honestly, what you want to write is generally the most important thing, because that passion will show in your voice.

Don’t get me wrong. I love these platforms. Twitter, in particular, is an important platform where writers get involved in publishing issues that need to be addressed. I also love joining Twitter events, because they are fun and fast and a great way to meet others who love reading and writing as much as you. But sometimes, I just need to read or watch TV or go for a jog or explore a bookstore without all the scrolling and pinging of notifications.

Setting boundaries and taking care of yourself is important, especially when you feel overwhelmed. In fact, I feel much better now that I’ve taken those apps off my phone. Admittedly, it probably won’t stay that way forever, but it is helping me stay focused on the recent conference I attended as well as my upcoming book releases in April and May. I’m sure I’ll put them back on my phone soon. But until then, I’m grabbing a coffee and sitting on my roof this morning. And I’m definitely logging out.

Don’t feel guilty for logging out. It’s okay to take a day off of marketing or tweeting or Facebooking or sharing photos of your cat on Instagram. (Though if you like that sort of thing, I often post photos of my three cats—Bogart, Boo Boo, and Kiki—via Instagram’s @AuthorSAT. If you post cats, feel free to tag me so I can see. I seriously love cats.)

You can log out, too.

~SAT

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